How necessary discretion is for monks is shown by the mistake of many, and indicated by the downfall of some, who beginning without discretion and passing their time without a sobering knowledge, have been unable to complete a praiseworthy life;
cf. Cassian. Conl. ii. 2since, just as error overtakes those who proceed without a path, so for those who live without discretion intemperance is at hand, and this is always the opposite of virtues which are placed in the mean between each extreme. Its onset is a matter of danger, when beside the straight way of discretion our foes place the stumbling-blocks of wickedness and the offences of various mistakes.
(X) Therefore we must pray God continually that He would bestow the light of true discretion to illumine this way, surrounded on every side by the world's thickest darkness, so that His true worshippers may be able to cross this darkness without error to Himself. So discretion has got its name from discerning, for the reason that it discerns in us between good and evil, and also between the moderate and the complete. For from the beginning either class has been divided like light and darkness, that is, good and evil, after evil began through the devil's agency to exist by the corruption of good, but through God's agency Who first illumines and then divides. Thus righteous Abel chose the good, but unrighteous Cain fell upon evil.
(XI) God made all things good that He created, but the devil sowed evils over them by cunning craftiness and the sly inducement of a perilous design. What things then are good? Doubtless those which are untouched, and have remained in the undefiled state of their creation;
cf. Cassian. Conl. viii. 24which God [alone] created and prepared, [according to the Apostle], that we should walk in them; [which are] the good works in which in Christ Jesus we were created,
cf. Eph. 2. 10namely goodness, innocence, righteousness, justice, truth, pity, love, saving peace, spiritual joy, together with the fruit of the Spiritall these with their fruits are good. But to these the evils are opposed, namely wickedness, seduction, unrighteousness, injustice, lying, greed, hatred, discord, bitterness, together with their manifold fruits, things which are born from them. For countless are the things that are produced from the two opposites, that is, from goods and evils.
(XII) But what departs from its established goodness and innocence is the first evil, which is the pride of primal wickedness; the opposite of which is the lowly esteem of a righteous
p.137goodness that acknowledges and glorifies its Creator, and this is a rational creature's first good. Thus the rest also have gradually grown to a huge forest of names in two sections. Since this is so, the good must be firmly held by those that have God's help, which is ever to be prayed for in prosperity and in adversity, lest either in prosperity we be lifted up to pride, or in adversity be cast down to despair. Thus we must always restrain ourselves from either danger, that is, from all excess by a splendid temperance and true discretion, which cleaves to Christian lowliness and opens the way of perfection to Christ's true soldiers, namely by ever discerning rightly in doubtful cases, and everywhere dividing justly between good and evil, whether between both in external acts, or between flesh and spirit in the inner life, or between good works and character, or between action and contemplation, or between official duty and private devotion. Therefore the evils are to be equally avoided, pride, ill will, lying, seduction, unrighteousness, wicked transgression of morality, gluttony, fornication, avarice, wrath, dejection, inconstancy, vainglory, boasting, slander; the goods of the virtues are also to be followed, lowliness, kindness, purity, obedience, temperance, chastity, liberality, patience, cheerfulness, constancy, zeal, persistence, watchfulness, silence, which through an enduring courage and sobering moderation, as in some weighing balance of discretion, are to be weighed in the performance of our customary work, according to the capacity of our endeavour, if everywhere we seek sufficiency. For it is doubtful to none that the man to whom sufficiency is not enough
cf. Sulp. Sev. Dial. i. 18has overstepped the measure of discretion, and whatever oversteps the very measure is clearly a vice.
(XIII) Thus between the little and the excessive there is a reasonable measure in the midst, which ever recalls us from every superfluity on either side, and in every case posited provides what is universally fixed by human need, and spurns the unreasonable demand of superfluous desire. And this measure of true discretion, weighing all our actions in the scales of justice, in no wise allows us to err from what is just, or to suffer a mistake, if we ever follow straight behind it as our leader. For while we must always restrain ourselves from either side, according to that saying, Keep yourselves from the right and from the left,
cf. Deut. 5. 32we must ever proceed straight forward by discretion, that is, by the light of God,
p.139while very often we say and sing the victorious psalmist's verse, My God, enlighten my darkness, since in Thee I am rescued from temptation.
Ps. 17. 28For temptation is the life of man on earth.
Iob 7. 1