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The Ecole
Initiative

The Ecole Glossary


John Cassian

Born c. 360, John Cassian was ordained a deacon in Constantinople and became a monk in Bethlehem. He settled in Scetis and made frequent trips to the Thebiad; his Conferences records his conversations with these monks. He may have left Egypt for Palestine c. 399 because of his association with Origenist monks. About six years later, he travelled to Rome, where he became friends with Leo, who was elected Pope Leo I in 440. Cassian established two monasteries near Marseilles c. 415; Sts. Peter and Victor was for men, and St. Savior was for women. Cassian's Institutes served as their rule, and his On the Incarnation is a treatise against Nestorianism. Cassian died c. 433/ 435.

Condemned at the Council of Orange (529) as a semi-Pelagian, Cassian was held in great esteem by St. Benedict, who recommended that monks read both the Institutes and the Conferences, and St. Leo the Great, who had commissioned Cassian to write about the incarnation. St. Gregory the Great took Cassian's eight principal vices and created the Seven Deadly Sins. In the Middle Ages, Cassian's body was housed in a marble tomb, and Pope Urban V put Cassian's head in a silver casket. Because Cassian disagreed with the teachings of St. Augustine, the Roman church has dismissed him as the founder of semi-Pelagianism, although he also disagreed with the teachings of Pelagius. The Orthodox, however, have glorified Cassian as St. John Cassian the Roman.

Karen Rae Keck


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