February 28, 2015

Saint John Cassian the Roman as a Model for our Lives

St. Cassian the Roman (Feast Day - February 29)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

Saint John Cassian is a great Father and Teacher of the Church. Born in Rome of pious parents, they made sure to raise him "in the education and admonition of the Lord". Together with maternal milk he suckled on the pure milk of the Orthodox Faith from the living breast of the Church. From his parents he learned to love Christ, the Head of the Church, as well as the saints, her authentic members.

His acquaintance and fellowship from his childhood with holy people affected him beneficially by shaping his personality and entire way of life. Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite writes: "He went to various places and met with saints and renowned venerable ones, and the virtues of all he aggregated in himself, like a diligent bee; so that he also became to others another standard and example of all kinds of virtues. Thus by elevating himself above the passions and purifying his nous, he came to know perfect victory against the passions."

It is known from life experience, as well as by the results of Pedagogy and Psychology, that standards have a big impact in shaping the character and psychology of children and young people. The association with holy people, living bearers of tradition, helps in shaping a correct orientation and in finding meaning in life. We know from the confessions of young people, that drugs led them to find life meaningless. They are indifferent to death, because they have no reason to live. When they are near deified saints they find solace, support and true love. Living under their enlightened and discerning guidance, it becomes difficult for them to stray, but if this does happen, they have all the preconditions to return.

The lives of the saints undoubtedly benefit and teach. More so, their words and writings teach and spiritually nourish. In the first volume of the Philokalia we have two discourses of Saint John Cassian: one written to Bishop Castor "On the Eight Evil Thoughts: Gluttony, Fornication, Avarice, Anger, Sadness, Despondency, Vainglory and Pride", and one written to Abbot Leontios "Regarding the Holy Fathers of Skete and a Discourse on Discernment". These show the purity of his life, his Orthodox mindset and, according to Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite, "they bring great benefit".

His memory is celebrated on February 29th, and on non-leap years February 28th.

Leap years have been associated with superstitions, suffering and misery. Maybe it is the human tendency to disclaim responsibility and to "load" our mistakes and failings on others or on days and hours and times and seasons (such as Friday the 13th, Black Tuesday, leap years, the witching hour, full moons, etc.).

A leap year is added every four years, in the month of February, and it serves its purpose purely for the calendar. "One year corresponds to a complete rotation of the earth around the sun and consists of 365.24217 days, ie, about 365 1/4 days. It was agreed, therefore, that this part of the day (3/4 every three years), when passing, would not be measured, but be added to the next year in a row, so that it is not lost. For this reason, then, every four years the phenomenon exists that one day more is added in the year, ie 366 days (0.25 x 4 = 1 day). In Roman times, this extra day came between the 24th and 25th of February. It was called the 'sixth before the calends', ie the sixth day before the first day of March and it was counted a second time as a 'bissextile'. Since then the marked year was characterized as a 'leap', to convert later to a bis sextum and identify with suffering, misfortune and all the evils that occur within this year" ("Police Review", January 1996).

Prejudices and superstitions are created by ignorance of the spiritual life. Knowledge of the love of the Triune God, as an existential communion with our personal life, creates trust in His providence, which liberates man from servitude to creation and the delusions of the devil, the enemy of human salvation. It also helps in our spiritual maturity, which accepts personal responsibility before God and people in a spirit of humility and repentance, in order to find life meaningful.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Ὅσιος Κασσιανὸς ὁ Ρωμαῖος", February 2000. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.