on 3 November 2000
As with all the books I have read from "The Classics of Western Spirituality" series, John Cassian's "Conferences" is both important and insightful. Cassian is, via the value placed on his writings by St. Benedict, a major figure in the history of western monasticism.
This volume contains nine of Cassian's twenty-four conferences. The conferences cover such topics as prayer, perfection, and purity of heart. By using the device of interviewing famous Egyptian monks and hermits, Cassian deftly distills the essence of early Egyptian monastic and eremitic teachings on these and other topics.
The scholarly introduction to this volume, written by Owen Chadwick, is indispensable for those wishing to set these teachings within the context of Cassian's life and thought. Mr. Chadwick, who has written a book on Cassian is just the man for this task and he does it well.
Colm Luibheid is both the translator of this volume and the author of its skilled and entertaining preface. Cassian's devotion and humor are brought to life in this translation.
Cassian still speaks to us today, one thousand six hundred after his death; in a world foreign to the one he was writing in. How can this be? It because the message of Cassian's writings: devotion and the quest to follow God in purity, spirit and truth, lies at the core of what we as human beings were created for. There is much here to help us (by the grace of God) along that narrow path which leads to the Father.