I recently came across some interesting reflections on ecstatic / entranced prayer by John Cassian (360-435 AD).

“Our mind arrives at that incorruption of power … that is not concerned with considering any image, and indeed is not distinguished by any accompaniment of voice or words, but with the intention of the mind on fire. [This prayer] is produced through an inexpressible ecstasy of heart, by an unexplainable keenness of spirit, and so the mind altered beyond sense or visible matter pours forth to God with unutterable groans and sighs.”

Conferences 10.11.6

Researching further I came across a review on the book Cassian the Monk by Oxford University Press.

His [Cassian’s) Institutes and Conferences are a remarkable synthesis of earlier monastic traditions, especially those of fourth-century Egypt, informed throughout by Cassian’s awareness of the particular needs of the Latin monastic movement he was helping to shape. Sometimes portrayed as simply an advocate of the sophisticated spiritual theology of Evagrius of Ponticus (360-435), Cassian was actually a theologian of keen insight, realism, and creativity. His teaching on sexuality is unique in early monastic literature in both its breadth and its depth, and his integration of biblical interpretation with the ways of prayer and teaching on ecstatic prayer are of fundamental importance for the western monastic tradition. The only Latin writer included in the classic Greek collections of monastic sayings, Cassian was the major spiritual influence on both the Rule of the Master and the Rule of Benedict, as well as the source for Gregory the Great’s teaching on capital sins and compunction.

Apparently John Cassian played a formative role in the life of John Main, a significant (but problematic) figure in the contemporary Christian contemplative tradition.

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