Cassian, INSTITUTES, BK. 9
On the SPIRIT of GLOOMINESS
LIBER NONVS DE SPIRITV TRISTITIAE
 

 The Weeping Captives Curse Babylon
 Bodleian MS Don a 11, Antiphoner, 1360.


(tr. mod. in part by L.Dysinger, O.S.B: from  E.C.S. Gibson, , NPNF 2nd ser. , vol 11)


 

 

CHAPTER 1. How our fifth combat is against the spirit of gloominess, and of the harm which it inflicts upon the soul.

CAPUT PRIMUM. Transitus ab institutis coenobiorum ad colluctationem octo principalium vitiorum.

 

 

1. IN our fifth combat we have to resist the pangs of gnawing gloominess: for if this, through separate attacks made at random, and by haphazard and casual changes, has secured an opportunity of gaining possession of our mind it keeps us back at all times from all insight in divine contemplation, and utterly ruins and depresses the mind that has fallen away from its complete state of purity. It does not allow it to say its prayers with its usual gladness of heart, nor permit it to rely on the comfort of reading the sacred writings, nor suffer it to be quiet and gentle with the brethren; it makes it impatient and rough in all the duties of work and devotion: and, as all wholesome counsel is lost, and steadfastness of heart destroyed, it makes the feelings almost mad and drunk, and crushes and overwhelms them with penal despair.

I. Quinto nobis certamine edacis tristitiae stimuli retundendi sunt. Quae si passim per singulos incursus et incertos ac uarios casus obtinendi animam nostram habuerit facultatem, ab omni nos per momenta singula separat diuinae contemplationis intuitu ipsamque mentem ab uniuerso puritatis statu deiectam funditus labefactat ac deprimit : non orationes eam explere cum solita cordis alacritate permittit, non sacrarum lectionum sinit remediis incubare. Tranquillum quoque ac mitem fratribus esse non patitur et ad cuncta operationum uel religionis officia inpatientem et asperum reddit, omnique perdito salubri consilio et cordis constantia proturbata uelut amentem facit et ebrium sensum frangitque et obruit desperatione poenali.

 

 

CHAPTER 2. Of the care with which the malady of gloominess must be healed.

CAPUT II. Qua cautione morbus tristitiae sit curandus.

 

 

2. WHEREFORE if we are anxious to exert ourselves lawfully in the struggle of our spiritual combat we ought with no less care to set about healing this malady also. For “as the moth injures the garment, and the worm the wood, so gloominess the heart of man.” (Prov. 25:20 [LXX]) With sufficient clearness and appropriateness has the Divine Spirit expressed the force of this dangerous and most injurious fault.

II. Quamobrem non minore prospectu, si spiritalis agonis certamina legitime cupimus desudare, hic quoque nobis curandus est morbus. Sicut enim linea uestimento, et uermis ligno: ita tristitia uiri nocet cordi: satis euidenter ac proprie uim noxii huius ac perniciosi uitii spiritus diuinus expressit.

 

 

CHAPTER 3. To what the soul may be compared which is a prey to the attacks of gloominess.

CAPUT III. Quam comparationem habeat anima quae tristitiae morsibus devoratur.

 

 

3. FOR the garment that is moth-eaten has no longer any commercial value or good use to which it can be put; and in the same way the wood that is worm-eaten is no longer worth anything for ornamenting even an ordinary building, but is destined to be burnt in the fire. So therefore the soul also which is a prey to the attacks of gnawing gloominess will be useless for that priestly garment which, according to the prophecy of the holy David, the ointment of the Holy Spirit coming down from heaven, first on Aaron’s beard, then on his skirts, is wont to assume: as it is said, “It is like the ointment upon the head which ran down upon Aaron’s beard, which ran down to the skirts of his clothing.” (Ps. 132 [133]:2) Nor can it have anything to do with the building or ornamentation of that spiritual temple of which Paul as a wise master builder laid the foundations, saying, “Ye are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you:” (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:16) and what the beams of this are like the bride tells us in the Song of Songs: “Our rafters are of cypress: the beams of our houses are of cedar.” (Cant. 1:16 [LXX]) And therefore those sorts of wood are chosen for the temple of God which are fragrant and not liable to rot, and which are not subject to decay from age nor to be worm-eaten.

III. Vestimentum namque esu tinearum adtactum nullius pretii uel honesti usus poterit ulterius habere commercium, totidemque lignum uermibus exaratum non iam ad ornatum uel mediocris aedificii, sed ad conbustionem ignis merebitur deputari. Ita igitur et anima, quae edacissimis tristitiae morsibus deuoratur, inutilis erit uel uestimento illi pontificali, quod unguentum Spiritus sancti de caelo descendens prius in barbam Aaron, deinde in oram suam solere suscipere sancti Dauid uaticinio perhibetur, secundum illud : Sicut unguentum in capite, quod descendit in barbam Aaron, quod descendit in oram uestimenti eius: 2. sed nec ad structuram templi illius spiritalis atque ornatum poterit pertinere, cuius Paulus architectus sapiens posuit fundamenta dicens : Vos estis templum Dei et Spiritus Dei habitat in uobis: cuius qualia sint ligna, sponsa describit in Cantico Canticorum, trabes, inquiens, nostrae cupressus, tigna domorum nostrarum cedri. Et idcirco huiusmodi ad templum Dei lignorum genera deliguntur, quae sunt et bonae fragrantiae et inputribilia, quaeque nec corruptelae uetustatis nec esui uermium ualeant subiacere.

 

 

CHAPTER 4. Whence and in what way gloominess arises.

CAPUT IV. Unde vel quibus modis tristitia gignatur.

 

 

4. BUT sometimes it is found to result from the fault of previous anger, or to spring from the desire of some gain which has not been realized, when a man has found that he has failed in his hope of securing those things which he had planned. But sometimes without any apparent reason for our being driven to fall into this misfortune, we are by the instigation of our crafty enemy suddenly depressed with so great a gloom that we cannot receive with ordinary civility the visits of those who are near and dear to us; and whatever subject of conversation is started by them, we regard it as ill-timed and out of place; and we can give them no civil answer, as the gall of bitterness is in possession of every corner of our heart.

IIII. Nonnumquam tamen irae praecedentis uitio subsequi seu concupiscentiae lucriue cuiusdam minus indepti generari solet, cum se harum rerum quadam spe mente concepta quis uiderit excidisse. Interdum uero etiam nullis exsistentibus causis, quibus ad hanc labem conruere prouocemur, inimici subtilis instinctu tanto repente maerore deprimimur, ut ne carorum quidem ac necessariorum nostrorum aduentum solita suscipere adfabilitate possimus, et quidquid ab eis conpetenti fuerit confabulatione prolatum, inportunum nobis ac superfluum iudicetur, nullaque eis reddatur a nobis grata responsio, uniuersos cordis nostri recessus felle amaritudinis occupante.

 

 

CHAPTER 5. That disturbances are caused in us not by the faults of other people, but by our own.

CAPUT V. Quod non aliorum, sed nostro, vitio commotiones excitentur in nobis.

 

 

5. WHENCE it is clearly proved that the pains of disturbances are not always caused in us by other people’s faults, but rather by our own, as we have stored up in ourselves the causes of offence, and the seeds of faults, which, as soon as a shower of temptation waters our soul, at once burst forth into shoots and fruits.

V. Vnde manifestissime conprobatur non semper nobis aliorum uitio commotionum stimulos excitari, sed potius nostro, qui reconditas in nobismet ipsis habemus offensionum causas ac seminaria uitiorum, quae, cum mentem nostram temptationum imber adluerit, in germina confestim fructusque prorumpunt.

 

 

CHAPTER 6. That no one comes to grief by a sudden fall, but is destroyed by falling through a long course of carelessness.

CAPUT VI. Quod nullus repentino lapsu corruat, sed paulatim, per longam injuriam recidens, pereat.

 

 

6. FOR no one is ever driven to sin by being provoked through another’s fault, unless he has the fuel of evil stored up in his own heart. Nor should we imagine that a man has been deceived suddenly when he has looked on a woman and fallen into the abyss of shameful lust: but rather that, owing to the opportunity of looking on her, the symptoms of disease which were hidden and concealed in his inmost soul have been brought to the surface.

VI. Numquam enim quis alterius uitio lacessitus peccare conpellitur, si repositam materiem delictorum in suo corde non habeat : nec tunc subito quispiam deceptus esse credendus est, cum conspecta mulieris forma in barathrum concupiscentiae turpis inciderit, sed potius occultos ac latentes medullitus morbos occasione uisus in superficiem tunc fuisse productos.

 

 

CHAPTER 7. That we ought not to give up intercourse with our brethren in order to seek after perfection, but should rather constantly cultivate the virtue of patience.

CAPUT VII. Quod non sint fratrum deserenda consortia, ut perfectio conquiratur, sed patientia jugiter excolenda.

 

 

7. AND so God, the creator of all things, having regard above everything to the amendment of His own work, and because the roots and causes of our falls are found not in others, but in ourselves, commands that we should not give up intercourse with our brethren, nor avoid those who we think have been hurt by us, or by whom we have been offended, but bids us pacify them, knowing that perfection of heart is not secured by separating from men so much as by the virtue of patience. Which when it is securely held, as it can keep us at peace even with those who hate peace, so, if it has not been acquired, it makes us perpetually differ from those who are perfect and better than we are: for opportunities for disturbance, on account of which we are eager to get away from those with whom we are connected, will not be wanting so long as we are living among men; and therefore we shall not escape altogether, but only change the causes of gloominess on account of which we separated from our former friends.

VII. Ideoque creator omnium Deus, opificii sui curationem prae omnibus noscens, et quia non in aliis, sed in nobismet ipsis offensionum radices causaeque consisterent, non deserenda praecepit fratrum consortia, nec uitari eos, quos laesos a nobis uel a quibus nos arbitramur offensos, sed deliniri iubet, sciens perfectionem cordis non tam separatione hominum quam patientiae uirtute conquiri : quae firme possessa sicut potest nos etiam cum his qui oderunt pacem pacificos conseruare, ita, si parta non fuerit, ab his quoque, qui perfecti ac meliores nobis sunt, facit iugiter dissidere. Occasiones enim commotionum, ob quas eos quibus iungimur deserere festinamus, in conuersatione humana deesse non poterunt : et idcirco tristitiae causas, ob quas a prioribus separamur, non euadimus, sed mutamus.

 

 

CHAPTER 8. That if we have improved our character it is possible for us to get on with everybody.

CAPUT VIII. Quod si mores nostros emendatos habuerimus, possit nobis cum omnibus convenire.

 

 

8. WE must then do our best to endeavour to amend our faults and correct our manners. And if we succeed in correcting them we shall certainly be at peace, I will not say with men, but even with beasts and the brute creation, according to what is said in the book of the blessed Job: “For the beasts of the field will be at peace with thee;” (Job 5:23) for we shall not fear offences coming from without, nor will any occasion of falling trouble us from outside, if the roots of such are not admitted and implanted within in our own selves: for “they have great peace who love thy law, O God; and they have no occasion of falling.” (Ps. 118 [119]:165)

VIII. Procurandum itaque nobis est, ut nostra potius emendare uitia et mores corrigere festinemus. Quae procul dubio si fuerint emendata, non dicam cum hominibus, sed etiam cum feris ac beluis facillime nobis conueniet secundum illud, quod in libro beati Iob dicitur : Bestiae enim ferae pacatae erunt tibi. Extrinsecus quippe uenientia non uerebimur offendicula nec ulla poterunt scandala nobis de foris inferri, si in nobismet ipsis intus radices eorum receptae insertaeque non fuerint. Pax enim multa diligentibus nomen tuum: et non est illis scandalum.

 

 

CHAPTER 9. Of another sort of gloominess which produces despair of salvation.

CAPUT IX. De alio genere tristitiae, quod desperationem salutis importat.

 

 

9. THERE is, too, another still more objectionable sort of gloominess, which produces in the guilty soul no amendment of life or correction of faults, but the most destructive despair: which did not make Cain repent after the murder of his brother, or Judas, after the betrayal, hasten to relieve himself by making amends, but drove him to hang himself in despair.

VIIII. Est etiam aliud detestabilius tristitiae genus, quod non correctionem uitae nec emendationem uitiorum, sed perniciosissimam desperationem animae inicit delinquenti: quod nec Cain fecit post fratricidium paenitere nec Iudam post proditionem ad satisfactionis remedia festinare, sed ad suspendium laquei sua desperatione pertraxit.

 

 

CHAPTER 10. Of the only thing in which gloominess is useful to us.

CAPUT X. In quo tantummodo sit nobis tristitia utilis.

 

 

10. AND so we must see that gloominess is only useful to us in one case, when we yield to it either in penitence for sin, or through being inflamed with the desire of perfection, or the contemplation of future blessedness. And of this the blessed Apostle says: “The sorrow which is according to God worketh repentance steadfast unto salvation: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” (2 Cor. 7:10)

X. Ideoque utilis nobis una re tantum tristitia iudicanda est, cum hanc uel paenitudine delictorum uel desiderio perfectionis accensi uel futurae beatitudinis contemplatione concipimus. De qua et beatus Apostolus : Quae secundum Deum est, inquit, tristitia, paenitentiam ad salutem stabilem operatur: saeculi autem tristitia mortem operatur.

 

 

CHAPTER 11. How we can decide what is useful and the sorrow according to God, and what is devilish and deadly.

CAPUT XI. Quemadmodum discernatur quae sit utilis ac secundum Deum tristitia, et quae diabolica atque mortifera.

 

 

11. BUT that gloominess and sorrow which “worketh repentance steadfast unto salvation” is obedient, civil, humble, kindly, gentle, and patient, as it springs from the love of God, and unweariedly extends itself from desire of perfection to every bodily grief and sorrow of spirit; and somehow or other rejoicing and feeding on hope of its own profit preserves all the gentleness of courtesy and forbearance, as it has in itself all the fruits of the Holy Spirit of which the same Apostle gives the list: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, goodness, benignity, faith, mildness, modesty.” (Gal. 5:22, 23) But the other kind is rough, impatient, hard, full of rancour and useless grief and penal despair, and breaks down the man on whom it has fastened, and hinders him from energy and wholesome sorrow, as it is unreasonable, and not only hampers the efficacy of his prayers, but actually destroys all those fruits of the Spirit of which we spoke, which that other sorrow knows how to produce.

XI. Sed illa tristitia, quae paenitentiam ad salutem stabilem operatur, oboediens est, adfabilis, humilis, mansueta, suauis ac patiens, utpote ex Dei caritate descendens : et ad omnem dolorem corporis ac spiritus contritionem infatigabiliter semet ipsam desiderio perfectionis extendens et quodammodo laeta ac spe profectus sui uegeta cunctam adfabilitatis et longanimitatis retinet suauitatem, habens in semet ipsa omnes fructus Spiritus sancti, quos enumerat idem Apostolus : Fructus autem Spiritus est caritas, gaudium, pax, longanimitas, bonitas, benignitas, fides, mansuetudo, continentia. Haec uero asperrima, inpatiens, dura, plena rancore et maerore infructuoso ac desperatione poenali, eum quem conplexa fuerit ab industria ac salutari dolore frangens ac reuocans, utpote inrationabilis et intercipiens non solum orationum efficaciam, uerum etiam uniuersos quos praediximus fructus spiritales euacuans, quos nouit illa conferre.

 

 

CHAPTER 12. That except that wholesome sorrow, which springs up in threeways, all sorrow and gloominess should be resisted as hurtful.

CAPUT XII. Quod absque illa salutari tristitia, quae tribus modis generatur, omnis tristitia tamquam noxia repellenda sit.

 

 

12. WHEREFORE except that sorrow which is endured either for the sake of saving penitence, or for the sake of aiming at perfection, or for the desire of the future, all sorrow and gloominess must equally be resisted, as belonging to this world, and being that which “worketh death,” and must be entirely expelled from our hearts like the spirit of fornication and avarice and anger.

XII. Quapropter absque illa, quae uel pro salutari paenitentia uel pro studio perfectionis seu pro desiderio suscipitur futurorum, omnis tristitia tamquam saeculi et quae mortem inferat aequaliter repellenda est ac sicut fornicationis spiritus seu filargyriae uel irae de nostris cordibus penitus extrudenda.

 

 

CHAPTER 13. The means by which we can root out gloominess from our hearts.

CAPUT XIII. Remedia quibus tristitiam de cordibus nostris exterminare possimus.

 

 

13. WE should then be able to expel this most injurious passion from our hearts, so that by spiritual meditation we may keep our mind constantly occupied with hope of the future and contemplation of the promised blessedness. For in this way we shall be able to get the better of all those sorts of gloominess, whether those which flow from previous anger or those which come to us from disappointment of gain, or from some loss, or those which spring from a wrong done to us, or those which arise from an unreasonable disturbance of mind, or those which bring on us a deadly despair, if, ever joyful with an insight into things eternal and future, and continuing immovable, we are not depressed by present accidents, or over-elated by prosperity, but look on each condition as uncertain and likely soon to pass away.

XIII. Hanc ergo perniciosissimam passionem ita de nobis expellere poterimus, ut mentem nostram spiritali meditatione iugiter occupatam futura spe et contemplatione repromissae beatitudinis erigamus. Hoc enim modo uniuersa tristitiarum genera, siue quae ex praecedente ira descendunt, siue quae amissione lucri uel detrimento inlato nobis adueniunt seu de inrogata generantur iniuria, siue quae de inrationabili mentis confusione procedunt, seu quae letalem desperationem nobis inducunt, ualebimus superare, cum aeternarum rerum ac futurarum intuitu semper laeti atque inmobiles perdurantes nec casibus deiecti praesentibus nec prosperis fuerimus elati, utraque uelut caduca et mox transeuntia contemplantes.

 

 

 

 


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