Church Fathers, Day One Hundred Twenty-Nine: St. John Cassian warns us to beware of depression

Church Fathers, Day One Hundred Twenty-Nine: St. John Cassian warns us to beware of depression November 27, 2014

john_cassian_2Beware of depression

Are you feeling gloomy? That’s good if it leads you to repent your sins, says St. John Cassian. Otherwise, depression poisons our spiritual lives. You can know whether it’s the good kind or the bad kind by its fruits.

There is another still worse kind of depression, that does not lead the guilty soul to any change of life or correction of faults, but into the most de­structive despair—the despair that did not make Cain repent after murdering his brother, or make Judas after his betrayal hurry to make amends, but drove him to hang himself in despair.

So we see that depression is only useful to us in one case: when it causes us to repent our sins, or makes us want to be perfected, or leads us to think of our future happiness. This is what the Apostle says: “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

Now the depression and grief that “leads to salvation” is obedient, polite, humble, kind, gentle, and patient. But the other kind is grating, impatient, hard, full of bitterness and useless grief and punishing despair, and breaks down the man it has attached itself to. It not only keeps his prayers from being effective, but actually destroys all those fruits of the Spirit I mentioned earlier that the other sorrow can produce.

So, except for that sorrow we endure for the sake of saving penitence, or for aiming at perfection, or for the desire of the future, we must resist all sorrow and depression equally. They belong to this world; they “produce death,” and we must root them out of our hearts completely like the spirit of fornication and covetous­ness and anger.

St. John Cassian, Institutes, 9.9-12


When I’m feeling gloomy, is my gloom producing good or bad fruit?


I pray you, merciful God, that I may spend this day and all the days of my life without sin, in fullness of joy, health, safety, holiness, and reverence for you.
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