On the Eight Deadly Sins by St. John Cassian

My notes from:
St. John Cassian's conferences on from The Philokalia: The Complete Text 
compiled by St Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarois of 
Corinth: Volume One, translated from the Greek and edited by G.E.H. Palmer,
Philip Sherrard, Kallistos Ware, faber and faber: London, 1979. Print.

For free pdf of this text (click here)

(1) “On Control of the Stomach”

  • There is not a single rule for fasting because we are different in many ways, but there is a single goal: to avoid over-eating and the filling of our bellies.
  • The Fathers “also found a day’s fast to be more beneficial and a greater help toward purity than one extending over a period of three, four, or even seven days” (73).
  • “Food is to be taken insofar as it supports our life, but not to the extent of enslaving us to the impulses of desire. To eat moderately and reasonably is to keep the body in health, not to deprive it of holiness” (74).
  • “A clear rule for self-control handed down by the Father is this: stop eating while still hungry and do not continue until you are satisfied” (74).
  • “By itself, abstinence from food does not contribute to perfect purity of soul unless the other virtues are active as well” (74).
  • “No one whose stomach is full can fight mentally against the demon of unchastity” (74).

(2) “On the Demon of Unchastity and the Desire of the Flesh”

  • “This harsh struggle has to be fought in both body and soul… bodily fasting is not enough to bring about perfect self-restraint and true purity; it must be accompanied by contrition of heart, intense prayer to God, frequent meditation on the Scriptures, toil and manual labour… humility of soul helps more than everything else… we should not trust in our own strength and ascetic practice, but in the help of our Master, God… for such a victory is beyond man’s natural powers” (75).
  • “We should therefore regard the defiled fantasies that arise in us during sleep as the proof of previous indolence and weakness still existing in us, since the emission which takes place while we are relaxed in sleep reveals the sickness that lies hidden in our souls” (76).
  • “The way to keep guard over our heart is immediately to expel from the mind every demon-inspired recollection of women” (76).
  • “The Fathers also say that we cannot fully acquire the virtue of purity unless we have first acquired real humility of heart” (77).
  • “In addition, a great weapon has been given us in the form of sacred vigils; for just as the watch we keep over our thoughts by day brings us holiness at night, so vigil at night brings purity to the soul by day” (77).

(3) “On Avarice”

  • The sickness of avarice can, with diligence and attention, be cut off more readily, because it enters from outside. If neglected, however, it becomes even harder to get rid of and more destructive than the other passions, for according to the Apostle it is “the root of all evil” (1 Tim. 6:10) (77-78).
  • Avarice is a passion deriving, not from our nature, but solely from an evil and perverted use of our free will.
  • Avarice is also idolatry (Col 3:5).
  • 3 forms of idolatry: 1. poor who want to acquire worldly goods, 2. those who renounced worldly goods to have regret & seek them again (Judas Iscariot), 3. those who do not completely detach themselves from worldly things (Ananias & Sapphira).
  • We must fight the good fight with Paul “in hunger and thirst… in cold and nakedness” (2 Cor 11:27).
  • We  should therefore make every effort to cut out from our souls this root of all evils, avarice,  in the certain knowledge that if the root remains the branches will sprout freely (82).

(4) “On Anger”

  • If you desire to attain perfection and rightly pursue the spiritual way, you should make yourself a stranger to all sinful anger and wrath (83).
  • Anger blinds the soul’s eyes. Anger obstructs our spiritual vision.
  • Expel malicious thoughts with anger
  • Our passions grow fiercer when left idle through lack of contact with other people (85).
  • We must cut off the roots of our sins and not merely the fruits.

(5) “On Dejection”

  • The demon of dejection obscures the soul’s capacity for spiritual contemplation and keeps it from all good works. He prevents us from praying gladly, from reading Scripture with profit and perseverance, and from being gentle and compassionate towards our brethren… Just as moth devours clothing and a worm devours wood, so dejection devours a man’s soul. It persuades him to shun every helpful encounter and stops him accepting advice from his true friends or giving them a courteous and peaceful reply (87).
  • A man can be harmed by only through the causes of the passions which lie within himself… the soul’s health is achieved not by a man’s separating himself from his fellows, but by his living the ascetic life in the company of holy men (87).
  • The only form of dejection we should cultivate is the sorrow which goes with repentance for sin and is accompanied by hope in God (cf. 2 Cor 7:10). ‘Godly sorrow’ nourishes the soul through the hope engendered by repentance, and it is mingled with joy. That is why it makes us obedient and eager for every good work (88).
  • It can be healed by prayer, hope in God, meditation on Holy Scripture, and by living with godly people (88)

(6) “On Listlessness”

  • This demon works hand in hand with the demon of dejection.
  • This demon always attacks us at mid-day, making us slack and full of fear, a deep hunger for food… (89)
  • he cannot be beaten off except through prayer, through avoiding useless speech, through the study of Holy Scriptures and through patience in the face of temptation (89)… through patience, prayer, and manual labour (91).

(7) “On Self-Esteem”

  • The vice of self-esteem is difficult to fight against because it has many forms and appears in all our activities. Every task, every activity, gives this malicious demon a chance for battle… Do not do anything with a view to being praised by other people, but seek God’s reward only, always rejecting the thoughts of self-praise that enter your heart, and always regarding yourself as nothing before God (92-3).

(8) “On Pride”

  • The demon of pride is the most sinister demon, fiercer than all others. He attacks the perfect above all and seeks to destroy those who have mounted almost to the heights of holiness. Pride corrupts the whole soul. We should guard our hearts with extreme care from the deadly spirit of pride.
  • When we have attained some degree of holiness we should always repeat to ourselves the words of the Apostle: “Yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Cor. 15:10), as well as what was said by the Lord: “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
  • Perfection in holiness can be achieved only through humility. Humility, in its turn, can be achieved only through faith, fear of God, gentleness and the shedding of all possessions. It is by means of these that we attain perfect love, through the grace and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ.


  1. How helpful!! Thank you so much Richard! Inspring.

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