St John Cassian: Is Your Whole Life a Single and Continuous Prayer?

Feast of the Prophet Jeremias

WISHING to leave us examples of perfect purity, our Lord, although He did not Himself need the support of withdrawal or the benefit of the desert in order to attain it, since these are external things and He is the source of inviolable holiness (for the fullness of purity could not be soiled by any filth of the crowds, nor could He who cleanses and sanctifies all polluted things be contaminate by human contact), nonetheless went off alone to the mountain to pray. Thus He taught us by the example of His withdrawal that, if we too wish to address God with purity and integrity of heart, we should likewise draw apart from all the turbulence and confusion of the crowd. Thus, while sojourning in this body, we shall in some fashion be able to prepare ourselves for the likeness as it were of that blessedness which is promised to the holy ones in the future, and God will be “all in all” for us.

For then will be brought to fruition in us that prayer of our Savior which He prayed to His Father on His disciple’s behalf when He said: “That the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and they in us.” And again: “That all may be one, as you Father in me and I in you, that they also may be one in us.” Then that perfect love of God, by which “He loved us first,” will have also passed into our heart’s disposition upon the fulfillment of this prayer of the Lord, which we believe can in no way be rendered void. This will be the case when every love, every desire, every effort, every undertaking, every thought of ours, everything that we live, that we speak, that we breathe, will be God, and when that unity which the Father now has with the Son and which the Son has with the Father will be carried over into our understanding and our mind, so that, just as He loves us with a sincere and pure and indissoluble love, we too may be joined with Him that whatever we breathe, whatever we understand, whatever we speak, may be God. In Him we shall attain, I say, to that end of which we spoke before, which the Lord longed to be fulfilled in us when He prayed: “That all may be one as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they themselves may also be made perfect in unity.” And again: “Father, I wish that those whom You have given me may also be with me where I am.”

This, then, is the goal of the solitary, and this must be his whole intention – to deserve to possess the image of future blessedness in this body and as it were to begin to taste the pledge of that heavenly way of life and glory in this vessel. This, I say, is the end of all perfection – that the mind purged of every carnal desire may daily be elevated to spiritual things, until one’s whole way of life and all the yearnings of one’s heart become a single and continuous prayer.

~St John Cassian the Roman

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