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John Cassian: Conferences (Classics of Western Spirituality) Paperback – August 1, 1985

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Product Details

  • Series: Classics of Western Spirituality
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Paulist Press; New edition edition (August 1, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080912694X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809126941
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


The appearance of this book is a first in church history....Ramsey's translation and comments will be an excellent help. -- Hallel

The complete English translation of Cassian's Conferences will be a welcome addition to the libraries of universities, monasteries and researchers. -- Journal of Early Christian Studies

Language Notes

Text: English, Latin (translation)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Classics of Western Spirituality edition of Cassian's Conferences seemed extremely appealing, but it is inevitably disappointing to read out-takes from a work as majestic as the Conferences. Admittedly, the Conferences can be daunting: the standard critical edition runs to three volumes, and the recent English translation is a hefty tome of nearly 1000 pages. But (and I say this advisedly) there is no substitute for mulling over the work as a whole. So I would suggest that instead of waiting for this edition to be reprinted, consider buying Boniface Ramsey's translation in the Ancient Christian Writer's series. If you are interested enough to read a second review, then you are probably interested enough to take on an unexpurgated version.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By NotATameLion on June 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
As with all the books I have read from "The Classics of Western Spirituality" series, John Cassian's "Conferences" is both important and insightful. Cassian is, via the value placed on his writings by St. Benedict, a major figure in the history of western monasticism.
This volume contains nine of Cassian's twenty-four conferences. The conferences cover such topics as prayer, perfection, and purity of heart. By using the device of interviewing famous Egyptian monks and hermits, Cassian deftly distills the essence of early Egyptian monastic and eremitic teachings on these and other topics.
The scholarly introduction to this volume, written by Owen Chadwick, is indispensable for those wishing to set these teachings within the context of Cassian's life and thought. Mr. Chadwick, who has written a book on Cassian is just the man for this task and he does it well.
Colm Luibheid is both the translator of this volume and the author of its skilled and entertaining preface. Cassian's devotion and humor are brought to life in this translation.
Cassian still speaks to us today, one thousand six hundred after his death; in a world foreign to the one he was writing in. How can this be? It because the message of Cassian's writings: devotion and the quest to follow God in purity, spirit and truth, lies at the core of what we as human beings were created for. There is much here to help us (by the grace of God) along that narrow path which leads to the Father.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Daniel B. Clendenin on January 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
Like many early Christian writers, the life of John Cassian (c. 360-c 435) remains shrouded in the mists of forgotten history. He was probably born in present day Romania (Dacia). When he was about twenty he traveled with his friend Germanus to Bethlehem where he joined a monastery. From Bethlehem Cassian and Germanus made at least two extended visits to the famous monastics down in Egypt (by some estimates they spent ten years there), and from there moved on to Constantinople. In Constantinople the bishop John Chrysostom ordained Cassian to the diaconate some time around the year 400, at which time he traveled to Rome to courier some letters and was ordained a priest by Pope Innocent I. Cassian later settled in Marseilles, where he founded two monasteries, and wrote three books. His Conferences, along with its much shorter companion volume entitled Institutes, chronicle the riches of early Egyptian monasticism based upon his considerable personal experiences and acquaintances, and in so doing transplanted that monastic influence in the West.

These desert monks are so far removed from our own time, place, and Christian experience that we might well ask why one would read them today other than from a sense of historical curiosity. I suggest two reasons, one from Scripture and the other from experience.

In reading Cassian's firsthand accounts of early desert monasticism, one is humbled by the zeal of their renunciation as they explored what the "hard sayings" of Jesus might mean: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Billyjack D'Urberville on October 3, 2005
Format: Paperback
This is one of the best volumes in the Classics of Western Spirituality series, combining a well-translated and shrewdly chosen essence of the 4th century writer, combined with excellent editorial apparatus.

An abbot at the end of his life, Cassian wrote of his youthful spiritual search among desert solitaries for his monks. The recollection is so fresh that it performs a neat trick; you overlook the young Cassian as a character in his own work, lost in rapture. His cooler traveling companian Germanus asks some of the best questions. An excellent writer, the conferences use the Socratic dialogue method, a rarity in Christian writing of any age. The result was a landmark that had a major impact. The pithy Saint Benedict in his rule still gives the best pitch for this writer, on the subject of what a monk ought to read: "Read the bible and read Cassian."

The stories transmitted by the desert abbas, of both humble wisdom and spiritual disaster, are unforgettable. Most important for modern readers -- and vitally so -- are the careful teachings on the so-called higher modes of contemplative prayer including the Jesus prayer. The air today is full of misleading prattle on the subject and worse from various ignoramuses at both the parish level and much higher, from the hallowed groves of Christian and Catholic academe and publishing. Too often the term "ancient Christian prayer" is now used to justify the use of mind-numbing mantras and breathing techniques in a gluttonous drive for spiritual experience. This book is the main necessary source to establish any early precedent, and it by no means justifies such techniques.
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