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John Cassian

d. c.433. Writer on asceticism. Brought up probably at Dobrudja (in modern Romania), he entered a Bethlehem monastery by 392. Leaving there for Egypt, he studied for seven years the aims and practices of ascetics, especially Paphnutius of Scete. On this experience he based the Collectiones Patrum (after 420). Made deacon at Constantinople about 402, he admired Chrysostom,* on whose downfall (405) he went to Rome, where he met Leo, who later invited him to refute Nestorius (De Incarnatione, 430). At Marseilles, Cassian founded a monastery and a nunnery about 415. In reply to a request from Bishop Castor of Apt for advice on Egyptian asceticism, he wrote the Institutes (425-30), which influenced the Benedictine* Rule and was regarded as an ascetic classic for centuries. Following Origen and Evagrius, he made contemplation of God with a pure mind and will his central aim. His methods were Bible study, withdrawal of the soul from ecclesiastical office or sex, striving to defeat the seven temptations and to shun the eight capital sins, and practicing humility and love. Beginners needed the set prayer and routine of a coenobium to stimulate this, but the acme lay with the silent, secluded anchorite.* Fear of idleness arising from omnipresent grace made him stimulate Gallic opposition to some aspects of Augustinianism (Collectio 13).