The Conferences Of John Cassian by John Cassian
Chapter XXIV. Why the Lord's yoke is felt grievous and His burden heavy.
But the fact that to us on the contrary the yoke of Christ seems neither light nor easy, must be rightly ascribed to our perverseness, as we are cast down by unbelief and want of faith, and fight with foolish obstinacy against His command, or rather advice, who says: |If thou wilt be perfect, go sell (or get rid of) all that thou hast, and come follow Me,| for we keep the substance of our worldly goods. And as the devil holds our soul fast in the toils of these, what remains but that, when he wants to sever us from spiritual delights, he should vex us by diminishing these and depriving us of them, contriving by his crafty wiles that when the sweetness of His yoke and lightness of His burden have become grievous to us through the evil of a corrupt desire, and when we are caught in the chains of that very property and substance, which we kept for our comfort and solace, he may always torment us with the scourges of worldly cares, extorting from us ourselves that wherewith we are tortured? For |Each one is bound by the cords of his own sins,| and hears from the prophet: |Behold all you that kindle a fire, encompassed with flames, walk in the light of your fire, and in the flames which you have kindled.| Since, as Solomon is witness, |Each man shall thereby be punished, whereby he has sinned.| For the very pleasures which we enjoy become a torment to us, and the delights and enjoyments of this flesh, turn like executioners upon their originator, because one who is supported by his former wealth and property is sure not to admit perfect humility of heart, not entire mortification of dangerous pleasures. But where all these implements of goodness give their aid, there all the trials of this present life, and whatever losses the enemy can contrive, are endured not only with the utmost patience, but with real pleasure, and again when they are wanting so dangerous a pride springs up that we are actually wounded by the deadly strokes of impatience at the slightest reproach, and it may be said to us by the prophet Jeremiah: |And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the troubled water? And what hast thou to do with the way of the Assyrians, to drink the water of the river? Thy own wickedness shall reprove thee, and thy apostasy shall rebuke thee. Know thou and see that it is an evil and a bitter thing for thee to have left the Lord thy God, and that My fear is not with thee, saith the Lord.| How then is it that the wondrous sweetness of the Lord's yoke is felt to be bitter, but because the bitterness of our dislike injures it? How is it that the exceeding lightness of the Divine burden becomes heavy, but because in our obstinate presumption we despise Him by whom it was borne, especially as Scripture itself plainly testifies to this very thing saying: |For if they would walk in right paths, they would certainly have found the paths of righteousness smooth|? It is plain, I say, that it is we, who make rough with the nasty and hard stones of our desires the right and smooth paths of the Lord; who most foolishly forsake the royal road made stony with the flints of apostles and prophets, and trodden down by the footsteps of all the saints and of the Lord Himself, and seek trackless and thorny places, and, blinded by the allurements of present delights, tear our way with torn legs and our wedding garment rent, through dark paths, overrun with the briars of sins, so as not only to be pierced by the sharp thorns of the brambles but actually laid low by the bites of deadly serpents and scorpions lurking there. For |there are thorns and thistles in wrong ways, but he that feareth the Lord shall keep himself from them.| Of such also the Lord says elsewhere by the prophet: |My people have forgotten, sacrificing in vain, and stumbling in their ways, in ancient paths, to walk in them in a way not trodden.| For according to Solomon's saying: |The ways of those who do not work are strewn with thorns, but the ways of the lusty are trodden down.| And thus wandering from the king's highway, they can never arrive at that metropolis, whither our course should ever be directed without swerving. And this also Ecclesiastes has pretty significantly expressed saying: |The labour of fools wearies those who know not how to go to the city;| viz., that |heavenly Jerusalem, which is the mother of us all.| But whoever truly gives up this world and takes upon him Christ's yoke and learns of Him, and is trained in the daily practice of suffering wrong, for He is |meek and lowly of heart,| will ever remain undisturbed by all temptations, and |all things will work together for good to him.| For as the prophet Obadiah says the words of God are |good to him that walketh uprightly;| and again: |For the ways of the Lord are right, and the just shall walk in them; but the transgressors shall fall in them.|