1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cassianus, Joannes Eremita

CASSIANUS, JOANNES EREMITA, or Joannes Massiliensis (?360–?435), a celebrated recluse, one of the first founders of monastic institutions in western Europe, was probably born in Provence about 360, but he spent the early part of his life in the monastery of Bethlehem with his friend Germanus, and his affinities were always Eastern rather than Western. In company with Germanus he visited Egypt, and dwelt for several years among the ascetics of the desert near the banks of the Nile. In 403 he repaired to Constantinople, where he received ordination as deacon at the hands of Chrysostom. At Marseilles (after 410) he founded two religious societies—a convent for nuns, and the abbey of St Victor, which during his time is said to have contained 5000 inmates. In later times his regulations enjoyed a high reputation, and were adopted by the monks and nuns of Port Royal. He was eventually canonized; and a festival in his honour long continued to be celebrated at Marseilles on the 25th of July. Cassianus was one of the first and most prominent of the Semi-Pelagians, maintaining that while man is by nature sinful, he yet has some good remaining in him, and that, while the immediate gift of God’s grace is necessary to salvation, conversion may also be begun by the exercise of man’s will. He further asserted that God is always willing to bestow his grace on all who seek it, though, at the same time, it is true that he sometimes bestows it without its being sought. These views have been held by a very large part of the church from his time, and embrace much of the essence of Arminianism. The style of Cassianus is slovenly, and shows no literary polish, but its direct simplicity is far superior to the rhetorical affectations which disfigure most of the writings of that age. At the request of Castor, bishop of Apt, he wrote two monumental and influential treatises on the monastic life. The De Institutione Coenobiorum (twelve books) describes the dress, the food, the devotional exercises, the discipline and the special spiritual dangers of monastic life in the East (gluttony, unchastity, avarice, anger, gloom, apathy, vanity and pride). The Collationes Patrum, a series of dialogues with the pious fathers of Egypt, deal with the way in which these dangers (and others, e.g. demons) may be avoided or overcome. At the desire of Leo (then archdeacon of Rome) he wrote against Nestorius his De Incarnatione Domini in seven books.

Editions.—Douay (1616) by Alardus Gazäus, with excellent notes; Migne’s Patrol. Lat. vols. xlix. and l.; M. Petschenig in the Vienna Corpus Script. Eccles. Lat. (2 vols., 1886–1888). See A. Harnack, History of Dogma, v. 246 ff., 253 ff.; A. Hoch, Die Lehre d. Joh. Cassian von Natur und Gnade (Freiburg, 1895); W. Moeller, History of the Chr. Church, i. 368-370.