Cassian on Scripture

“When some of the brothers, then, were marveling at the remarkable clarity of his knowledge and were asking him about certain interpretations of Scripture, he said to them: ‘A monk who desires to attain to a knowledge of Scripture should never toil over the works of the commentators. Instead he should direct the full effort of his mind and the attentiveness of his heart toward the cleansing of his fleshly vices. As soon as these have been driven out and the veil of the passions has been lifted, the eyes of his heart will naturally contemplate the mysteries of Scripture, since it was not in order to be unknown and obscure that they were delivered to us by the grace of the Holy Spirit: rather they were made obscure by our vices, when the veil of our sinfulness clouds over the eyes of our heart. Once these latter have been restored to their natural healthfulness, the very reading of Holy Scripture—even by itself—will be more than sufficient for the contemplation of true knowledge, and they will not stand in need of the teachings of the commentators, just as fleshly eyes do not need anyone’s instructions in order to see so long as they are untouched by inflammation or by the darkness of blindness. Such great differences and errors have arisen among them because many, paying no heed to the cleansing of their minds, have jumped into interpreting them and, devising opinions that are at odds with both the faith and themselves on account of the dullness and impurity of their hearts, have been unable to grasp the light of truth.”

-John Cassian, The Institutes, Book Five, chapter 34. (c. 420)


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