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November 24, 2004 by AK

Good news

J. Cassian of Feb. 30 fame is back. Which takes us to the roots again: John Cassian was a venerable Church Father, but for some reason the Orthodox Church commemorates him on February 29. One can find most extravagant and fantastic explanations to this in Russian peasant lore. To quote two:

Nicholas and Cassian [Kas’yan, kah-S’YAN]: St. Nicholas [Nikola, nee-KAW-lah] is helping a peasant to drag his cart out of the mud it is stuck in; the well-dressed Cassian refuses help; on learning that, the Lord rules that Nicholas’ day should be celebrated yearly, and Cassian’s, only once every four years.

Cassian in row with John Chrysostom: Cassian and John Chrysostom are serving liturgy in a church together; Cassian sears John’s moustache with the censer flame; John sets Cassian’s beard on fire with a candle; the Lord holds Cassian responsible for starting the row and orders to celebrate his day only once in four years, and makes a new, golden moustache for Chrysostom.

The second plot is based on a folk interpretation of “Chrysostom.” The Russian word for “Golden Mouth(ed)” is Zlatoust. Somehow the last consonant got reduced, and Zlatoust turned into Zlatous or Zlatovus, “Golden Moustache.”

UPDATE. I forgot to mention that the real John Cassian was a disciple of the real John Chrysostom: one pinch of fact in this wonderfully bizarre stew. St. Nicholas, if this one is the pater who dragged Arius by his beard at Nicea (325; that episode is probably a legend, too), must have died in the 340s; J.C. was born in 360 or 365.


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