“a higher state still” ~ John Cassian, ca. AD 400
In this discussion over the next few posts, I will quote recognized Church Fathers from the early centuries of the Church in order to introduce the Primitive Christian Prayer tradition to a mostly Protestant audience. The reason for this is simple: it’s a prayer tradition that we Protestants do not have and never had; it had virtually disappeared from the institutional Roman Catholic Church by the time of the Protestant Reformation.
To the modern Roman Catholic and Protestant believer, prayer is usually broken down into five basic types: Blessing and Adoration, Petition, Intercession, Thanksgiving, and Praise (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church).
John Cassian (c. 350 – c.435) was a Christian mystic who spent 15 years in the Egyptian Desert with the Desert Fathers and Mothers of the 4th century. Highly educated, he was equally comfortable writing in either Greek or Latin. He tells us that Primitive Christian Prayer went well past the types we recognize today:
“The various kinds of prayer [petition, promise, intercession, pure praise] are followed by a higher state still… it is the contemplation of God alone, an immeasurable fire of love. The soul settles in it and sinks into its depths” (Conferences, IX, 18).