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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XI:
The Works of John Cassian.: Chapter IX. Of true and complete perfection.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter IX.

Of true and complete perfection.

But this is μερική, i.e., no thorough and altogether complete perfection, but only a partial one. Perfection then is very rare and granted by God’s gift to but a very few. For he is truly and not partially perfect who with equal imperturbability can put up with the squalor of the wilderness in the desert, as well as the infirmities of the brethren in the Cœnobium. And so it is hard to find one who is perfect in both lives, because the anchorite cannot thoroughly acquire κτημοσύνη , i.e., a disregard for and stripping oneself of material things, nor the Cœnobite purity in contemplation, although we know that Abbot Moses and Paphnutius and the two Macarii 2114 were masters of both in perfection. And so they were perfect in either life, and while they withdrew further than all the dwellers in the desert and delighted themselves unceasingly in the retirement of the wilderness, and as far as in them lay never sought intercourse with other men, yet they put up with the presence and the infirmities of those who came to them so that when a large number of the brethren came to them for the sake of seeing them and profiting by it, they endured this almost continuous trouble of receiving them with imperturbable patience, and men fancied that all the days of their life they had neither learnt nor practised anything but how to show common civility to those who came, so that it was a puzzle to all to say in which life their zeal was mainly shown, i.e., whether their greatness adapted itself more remarkably to the purity of the hermitage or to the common life.



Moses, Paphnutius, and the two Macarii have all been mentioned frequently before. On Moses (to whom the first two Conferences are assigned) see the note on the Institutes X. xxv.; on Paphnutius see on Conference III. i.; and on the two Macarii, the Institutes V. xli.

Next: Chapter X. Of those who while still imperfect retire into the desert.

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