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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XI:
The Works of John Cassian.: Chapter IV. What is said of the value of discretion in Holy Scripture.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter IV.

What is said of the value of discretion in Holy Scripture.

Such is discretion, which is not only the “light of the body,” but also called the sun by the Apostle, as it said “Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” 1168 It is also called the guidance of our life: as it said “Those who have no guidance, fall like leaves.” 1169 It is most truly named counsel, without which the authority of Scripture allows us to do nothing, so that we are not even permitted to take that spiritual “wine which maketh glad the heart of man” 1170 without its regulating control: as it is said “Do everything with counsel, drink thy wine with counsel,” 1171 and again “like a city that has its walls destroyed and is not fenced in, so is a man who does anything without counsel.” 1172 And how injurious the absence of this is to a monk, the illustration and figure in the passage quoted shows, by comparing it to a city that is destroyed and without walls. Herein lies wisdom, herein lies intelligence and understanding without which our inward house cannot be built, nor can spiritual riches be gathered together, as it is said: “A house is built with wisdom, and again it is set up with intelligence. With understanding the storehouses are filled with all precious riches and good things.” 1173 This I say is “solid food,” which can only be taken by those who are full grown and strong, as it is said: “But solid food is for full grown men, who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil.” 1174 And it is shown to be useful and necessary for us, only in so far as it is in accordance with the word of God and its powers, as is said “For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and reaching even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and a discerner p. 310 of the thoughts and intents of the heart:” 1175 and by this it is clearly shown that no virtue can possibly be perfectly acquired or continue without the grace of discretion. And so by the judgment of the blessed Antony as well as of all others it has been laid down that it is discretion which leads a fearless monk by fixed stages to God, and preserves the virtues mentioned above continually intact, by means of which one may ascend with less weariness to the extreme summit of perfection, and without which even those who toil most willingly cannot reach the heights of perfection. For discretion is the mother of all virtues, as well as their guardian and regulator.



Eph. iv. 26.


Prov. xi. 14 (LXX.).


Psa. 104.15.


Prov. xxxi. 3 (LXX.).


Prov. xxv. 28 (LXX.).


Prov. 24:3, 4 (LXX.).


Heb. v. 14.


Heb. iv. 12.

Next: Chapter V. Of the death of the old man Heron.