On attaining to true spiritual knowledge

BUT that we must attain to spiritual knowledge in the order of which we have already spoken, we are taught also by the blessed Apostle.

For when he wanted not merely to draw up a list of all his own virtues, but rather to describe their order, that he might explain which follows what, and which gives birth to what, after some others he proceeds as follows: “In watchings, in fastings, in chastity, in knowledge, in long suffering, in gentleness, in the Holy Ghost, in love unfeigned” (2 Cor 6:5-6).

And by this enumeration of virtues he evidently meant to teach us that we must come from watchings and fastings to chastity, from chastity to knowledge, from knowledge to long suffering, from long suffering to gentleness, from gentleness to the Holy Ghost, from the Holy Ghost to the rewards of love unfeigned.

When then by this system and in this order you too have come to spiritual knowledge, you will certainly have, as we said, not barren or idle learning but what is vigorous and fruitful; and the seed of the word of salvation which has been committed by you to the hearts of your hearers, will be watered by the plentiful showers of the Holy Ghost that will follow; and, according to this that the prophet promised, “the rain will be given to your seed, wherever you shall sow in the land, and the bread of the corn of the land shall be most plentiful and fat” (Is 30:23).

Abba Nesteros, in the Conferences of St John Cassian (?360-435), Part II, Book XIV Chapter XVI (CCEL).


THE holy Spirit is light and life, and living fountain of the eye of the heart; Spirit of wisdom, Spirit of union, good, frank, beheld by the eye of the heart alone, leading, taking away our faults: he is God, who maketh gods of us, he is fire proceeding from fire, speaking, filling with activity, distributing special graces: by whom all the prophets and the Apostles sent by God were crowned in company with the martyrs. A strange sound, a strange sight: tongues of fire divided for the distribution of special graces.

At Mattins on the Feast of Pentecost.