The Conferences Of John Cassian by John Cassian
Chapter XVI. What is the body of sin.
This then is that body of death from which we cannot escape, pent in which those who are perfect, who have tasted |how gracious the Lord is,| daily feel with the prophet |how bad for himself and bitter it is for a man to depart from the Lord his God.| This is the body of death which restrains us from the heavenly vision and drags us back to earthly things, which causes men while singing Psalms and kneeling in prayer to have their thoughts filled with human figures, or conversations, or business, or unnecessary actions. This is the body of death, owing to which those, who would emulate the sanctity of angels, and who long to cling continually to God, yet are unable to arrive at the perfection of this good, because the body of death stands in their way, but they do the evil that they would not, i.e., they are dragged down in their minds even to the things which have nothing to do with their advance and perfection in virtue. Finally that the blessed Apostle might clearly denote that he said this of saintly and perfect men, and those like himself, he in a way points with his finger to himself and at once proceeds: |And so I myself,| i.e., I who say this, lay bare the secrets of my own not another's conscience. This mode of speech at any rate the Apostle is familiarly accustomed to use, whenever he wants to point specially to himself, as here: |I, Paul, myself beseech you by the mildness and modesty of Christ;| and again: |except that I myself was not burdensome to you;| and once more: |But be it so: I myself did not burden you;| and elsewhere: |I, Paul, myself say unto you: if ye be circumcised Christ shall profit you nothing;| and to the Romans: |For I could wish that I myself were Anathema from Christ for my brethren.| But it cannot unreasonably be taken in this way, that |And so I myself| is expressly said with emphasis, i.e., I whom you know to be an Apostle of Christ, whom you venerate with the utmost respect, whom you believe to be of the highest character and perfect, and one in whom Christ speaks, though with the mind I serve the law of God, yet with the flesh I confess that I serve the law of sin, i.e., by the occupations of my human condition am sometimes dragged down from heavenly to earthly things and the height of my mind is brought down to the level of care for humble matters. And by this law of sin I find that at every moment I am so taken captive that although I persist in my immovable longing around the law of God, yet in no way can I escape the power of this captivity, unless I always fly to the grace of the Saviour.