After reading some recommended first books on becoming an oblate, and after I had read several other books, and the RB 1980: Rule of St. Benedict, and began using Benedictine Daily Prayer to pray the Divine Office each day, I was ready to head out into the wilderness and read some classic ancient works — those that are more foundational to monastic practices. I wondered where did all this come from? I started with Cassian.
For those of you who do not know him — St. John Cassian (360-435 AD) was perhaps born in either what is now France or Romania and spent time with the early desert monks in Egypt.
If you only know one thing about St. Cassian — it should be that John Cassian’s accounts and interpretations were important in the “transmission of the culture of Egyptian monasticism into the early medieval west.”
This means that Cassian is a principal figure in the development of monastic principles and practices that are seen later in the Rule of St. Benedict (480-543 AD) which has been described as the most important book to western civilization other than the Bible.
For those who may think St. Benedict is one of the Pope's 16 brothers, and for an initial look at Benedictine spirituality and the life of St. Benedict, here is a summary of it all.
If you are or become interested in monasticism or the desert fathers, you will being walking in the footsteps of St. John Cassian — what a guy!
And when I heard from many mature oblates and monks that oblates should read Cassian. I started with "Saint John Cassian on Prayer," translated by A.M. Casiday ISBN 9780728301665
So, as I sit here today and pray the Divine Office, I can trace what I pray and why I pray to the Rule of St. Benedict, then to St. John Cassian, and then back to the first desert fathers in Egypt about 300 AD — and then into the Bible.
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