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Johannes Cassianus

Johannes Cassianus

*  360 v. Chr. Provinz Scythia minor
† 435 Marsillia

John Cassian (also John of Masilia) was born about 360 C.E. in the Roman province of Scythia (present-day Dobruja in Bulgaria). As a young man, Cassian made a pilgrimage to Palestine, where he first came into contact with Christian monasticism in a monastery in Bethlehem. For the next ten to fifteen years, he lived in the Egyptian desert, where he learned the ways of the Anchorite hermits and those of the Cenobites, forms of communal monastic living. Around 400 C.E., Cassian became a student of John Chrysostom, the Patriarch of Constantinople, who ordained him a deacon. After Chrysostom was banished for the second time, Cassian traveled to Rome, where he successfully pleaded to Pope Innocent I on behalf of Chrysostom and was ordained as a priest. However, Cassian never returned to Constantinople. Instead in 415, he went to Masilia (Marseille) and founded the monastery of Saint Victor and the cloister of Saint Salvador. He remained abbot there until his death about 435 C.E. There Cassian composed a number of works with the purpose of acculturating Eastern monasticism to the West with certain changes and moderations. These writings had a great influence on the development of Western monasticism. Among his most important pieces are "De institutis coenobiorum" (419-426), a description of oriental monasticism, and "Collationes patrum Sceticorum" (after 420), fictional dialogues with an Egyptian Anchorite on monkish questions. In the area of Church history, Cassian is considered one of the founders of so-called Semipelagianism, a movement based on theological teachings which criticized the teachings of St. Augustine on predestination and grace. On the request of Pope Leo I, Cassian composed "De incarnatione domini contra Nestorium" against Patriarch Nestorius of Constantinople, which is the only Western contribution to the Nestorian controversy.