John Cassian and the Prayer of Fire  

Posted by Joe Rawls

February 29 is the feast of St John Cassian (c.360–435). John is revered in both the Western and Eastern Churches for his mystical writings, for example:
“The Prayer of Fire is known to few. Soaring above every human sense, it is uttered not by the sound of the voice nor by the movement of the tongue nor by any formation of words. Filled and illumined with light from heaven, the mind does not utter this prayer in limited and human expressions, but with all its powers gathered together in unity it pours forth this prayer abundantly as from a most copious fountain and offers it up to God in a way beyond expression, telling Him so much in that brief moment of time that when we return to ourselves afterwards we are not able easily to state or even go over in our minds all that took place.”
John Cassian was drawn to the ascetic life and spent several years as a hermit in the Palestinian desert. Later he traveled to Egypt to visit the desert fathers and mothers there. With that experience, he founded the famous Abbey of St Victor, near Marseille, France. Like monasteries in the Celtic tradition, St Victor was a double monastery, in which monks and nuns had separate living quarters but came together for Mass and the daily offices.
Benedict of Nursia is often called the “father of western monasticism.” But he lived a century after John Cassian and looked to the Abbey of St Victor, and Cassian’s writings, for guidance in organizing the monasteries he founded in Italy. St John Cassian thus influenced the whole of western monasticism.
(Hat-tip to Jarek Kubacki).