A Cheery Subject for Leap Day

Today is Leap Day, the day when once every four years nothing particularly special happens around the world. I suppose it is too difficult to create a commercial industry around a holiday that occurs so irregularly, otherwise the stores would be lined with their Leap Day themed decor rather than already displaying giant, stuffed, egg-laying rabbits to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Meanwhile, as often as it happens, Leap Day is also the feast day of St. John Cassian. In honor of that, here are some thoughts from Cassian’s Institutes, Book IX (“Of the Spirit of Dejection”), that are resonating with me at the moment:

Sometimes [dejection] is found to result from the fault of previous anger, or to spring from the desire of some gain which has not been realized, when a man has found that he has failed in his hope of securing those things which he had planned…The pains of [dejection] are not always caused in us by other people’s faults, but rather by our own, as we have stored up in ourselves the causes of offence, and the seeds of faults, which, as soon as a shower of temptation waters our soul, at once burst forth into shoots and fruits.

For no one is ever driven to sin by being provoked through another’s fault, unless he has the fuel of evil stored up in his own heart. Nor should we imagine that a man has been deceived suddenly when he has looked on a woman and fallen into the abyss of shameful lust: but rather that, owing to the opportunity of looking on her, the symptoms of disease which were hidden and concealed in his inmost soul have been brought to the surface…

We must then do our best to endeavour to amend our faults and correct our manners. And if we succeed in correcting them we shall certainly be at peace, I will not say with men, but even with beasts and the brute creation, according to what is said in the book of the blessed Job: “For the beasts of the field will be at peace with thee;” for we shall not fear offences coming from without, nor will any occasion of falling trouble us from outside, if the roots of such are not admitted and implanted within in our own selves: for “they have great peace who love thy law, O God; and they have no occasion of falling.”

…And so we must see that dejection is only useful to us in one case, when we yield to it either in penitence for sin, or through being inflamed with the desire of perfection, or the contemplation of future blessedness. And of this the blessed Apostle says: “The sorrow which is according to God worketh repentance steadfast unto salvation: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.”

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