Synaxarion calls him "Our
Father Cassian, chosen by God to bring the illumination
of Eastern monasticism to the West".
born in Scythia of noble parents, and was well educated
in secular things. But, thirsting for perfection, he
left all behind and travelled with his friend Germanus
to the Holy Land, where he became a monk in Bethlehem.
becoming established in the monastic life for several
years, St John felt a desire for greater perfection, and
sought out the Fathers of the Egyptian Desert. He spent
seven years in the Desert, learning from such Fathers as
Moses, Serapion, Theonas, Isaac and Paphnutius.
Through long struggles in his cell, St John developed
from personal experience a divinely-inspired doctrine of
spiritual combat. Many say that it was he who first
listed the eight basic passions:
gluttony, fornication, avarice, anger, sadness, acedia,
vainglory and pride.
time, struggles in the Alexandrian Church made life so
difficult for the Egyptian monks that St John (still
accompanied by his friend Germanus), sought refuge in
Constantinople, where they came under the care and
protection of St John Chrysostom. When the holy
Archbishop was exiled, St John once again fled, this
time to Rome, where he came under the protection of Pope
proved to be providential for the Western Church, for
it was St John who brought the treasures of Desert
spirituality to the monasteries of the West.
founded the monastery of St Victor in Marseilles, then,
at the request of his bishop, wrote the
Cenobitic Institutions, in which he adapted the
austere practices of the Egyptian Fathers to the
conditions of life in Gaul. He went on to write his
famous Conferences, which became
the main channel by which the wisdom of the desert East
was passed to the monastics of the West.
Benedict developed much of his Rule
(which at one time governed most monasteries in the
Latin world) from St John's
Institutions,, and ordered that the
Conferences be read in all
John reposed in peace in 435, and has been venerated by
the monks of the West as their Father and one of their
wisest teachers. His relics are still venerated at the
Abbey of St Victor in Marseilles.
John's writings were soon attacked by extreme
Augustinians and, as Augustinianism became the official
doctrine of the Latin Church, his veneration fell out of
favor in the West.
Outside the Orthodox Church, his commemoration is now
limited to the diocese of Marseilles.