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Chapter I.

How Theonas came to Abbot John.

Before we begin to set forth the words of this Conference held with that excellent man Abbot Theonas,21582158    Nothing further is known of this Theonas than what Cassian here tells us: he is clearly a different person from the one mentioned by Rufinus, Hist. Mon. c. vi. Cf. Palladius, Lausiac History, c. l. I think it well to describe in a brief discourse the origin of his conversion because from this the reader will be able to see more clearly both the excellence and the grace of the man. He then while still very young was by the desire and command of his parents joined in the tie of marriage, for as with pious anxiety they were careful about his chastity, and were afraid of a critical fall at a dangerous age, they thought that the passions of youth might be anticipated by the remedy of a lawful marriage. When then he had lived for five years with a wife, he came to Abbot John, who was then for his marvellous sanctity chosen to preside over the administration of the alms.21592159    Diaconia. Cf. the note on XVIII. vii. For it is not anyone who likes who is of his own wish or ambition promoted to this office, but only he whom the congregation of all the Elders considers from the advantage of his age and the witness of his faith and virtues to be more excellent than, and superior to, all others. To this blessed John then the aforesaid young man had come in the eagerness of his pious devotion, bringing gifts of piety among other owners who were eager to offer tithes and first-fruits of their substance to the old man I mentioned,21602160    This is noteworthy as being the earliest instance on record of the payment of tithes to a monastery. The language of the Conference, it will be noted, shows that they were not regarded as legally due or in any way compulsory, but as a free-will offering on the part of the faithful. Cf. Bingham, Antiquities, Book VII. ciii. § 19; and the Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, Vol. ii. p. 1964. and when the old man saw them pouring in upon him with many gifts, and was anxious to make some recompense in return for their offerings, he began, as the Apostle says, to sow spiritual things to them whose carnal gifts he was reaping.21612161    Cf. 1 Cor. ix. 11. And finally thus began his word of exhortation.

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