Marcus Eremita – Mark the Ascetic

5 March is the Feast of Mark the Ascetic
mark ascetic
“Our venerable and God-bearing father Mark the Ascetic was born in Athens in the fifth century, and lived in the Egyptian desert as a monk. His feast day is commemorated on March 5.
St. Mark was an ascetic and miracle-worker, sometimes known as Mark the Faster. In his 40th year he was tonsured a monk by his teacher, St. John Chrysostom. Mark then spent 60 more years in the wilderness of Nitria (a desert in Lower Egypt) in fasting and prayer, and in writing many spiritual works concerning the salvation of souls. He knew all the Holy Scriptures by heart. He was very merciful and kind, and wept much for the misfortunes that had befallen all of God’s creation.
On one occasion, when weeping over a hyena’s blind whelp, he prayed to God and the whelp received its sight. In thanksgiving the mother hyena brought him a sheepskin. The saint forbade the hyena in the future to kill any more sheep belonging to poor people. He received Communion at the hands of angels. His homilies concerned such topics as the spiritual law, repentance, sobriety, and are ranked among the preeminent literature of the Church. These works were praised by the Patriarch Photius the Great himself.”
mark ascetic 2
“Marcus Eremita or Markus the Ascetic was a Christian theologian and ascetic writer of the fifth century.
Mark is rather an ascetic than a dogmatic writer. He is content to accept dogmas from the Church; his interest is in the spiritual life as it should be led by monks. He is practical rather than mystic, belongs to the Antiochene School and shows himself to be a disciple of John Chrysostom. Various theories about his period and works have been advanced. According to Johannes Kunze, Mark the Hermit was superior of a laura at Ancyra; he then as an old man left his monastery and became a hermit, probably in the desert east of Palestine, near St. Sabas. He was a contemporary of Nestorius and died probably before the Council of Chalcedon (451). Nicephorus Callistus (fourteenth century) says he was a disciple of John Chrysostom. Cardinal Bellarmine thought that this Mark was the monk who prophesied ten more years of life to the Emperor Leo VI in 900. He is refuted by Tillemont. Another view supported by the Byzantine Menaia identifies him with the Egyptian monk mentioned in Palladius, who lived in the fourth century. The discovery and identification of a work by him against Nestorius by P. Kerameus makes his period certain, as defended by Kunze.”
mark ascetic 3
From “To Those Who Think to be Justified by Deeds,” by St. Mark, in which he explains the relationship between faith and deeds and that deeds alone are not enough for salvation:

“Wishing to show that, although every commandment is obligatory, none the less it is by His blood that sonship is granted to men, the Lord says: “When you have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10). Thus the kingdom of heaven is not a reward for deeds, but a gift of the Lord prepared for faithful servants.
mark ascetic 4
— “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3), and He grants freedom to those who serve Him well. For He says: “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of the Lord” (Matthew 25:23).
— He is not yet a faithful servant who bases himself on bare knowledge alone; a faithful servant is he who professes his faith by obedience to Christ, Who gave the commandments.
— He who reveres the Lord does what is commanded, and if he commits some sin or disobeys Him, endures whatever he has to suffer for this as being his desert.
— If you love knowledge, love also work, for bare knowledge puffs a man up.
— Knowledge without corresponding practice is still insecure, even if it is true. All is made firm by practice.
— He who wants to do something and cannot is, in the eyes of God who sees our hearts, as though he has done it. This should be understood as being so in relation to good and evil alike.
— Some think they believe rightly, while not practicing the commandments; others, while practicing them, expect the kingdom as a just reward. Both sin against truth.
— We who have been granted the bath of eternal life do good works not for the sake of reward, but to preserve the purity which was given us.
— Every good deed we perform by our own natural powers, although it removes us further from the (evil deed) opposed to it, cannot make us holy without grace.
— The abstinent withdraws from gluttony, the uncovetous from covetousness, the silent from wordiness, the pure from attachment to sensory pleasures, the chaste from fornication, he who is content with what he has from love of money, the meek from agitation (anger), the humble from vanity, the obedient from objection, he who is honest with himself from hypocrisy; equally, he who prays withdraws from despair, the willing pauper from acquisitiveness, he who professes his faith from denying it, the martyr from idolatry – so you see that each virtue, performed even unto death, is nothing but withdrawal from sin; and withdrawal from sin is a natural action, not an action which could be rewarded by the kingdom.
— When the mind forgets the purpose of piety, then visible works of virtue become useless.
— He who does good and seeks a reward works not for God but for his own desire.
— Some say that we can do nothing good until we actively receive the grace of the Holy Spirit. This is not true.
— To him who has been baptized into Christ grace has been mysteriously given already. But it acts in proportion to his fulfillment of commandments. Although this grace never ceases to help us in secret, it lies in our power to do or not to do good according to our own will.
mark ascetic 5
— In the first place, it fittingly arouses conscience, through which even evil-doers have been accepted by God when they repented.
— Again, it may be concealed in the advice of a brother. Sometimes it follows thought during reading and teaches its truth to the mind by means of a natural deduction (from that thought). Thus, if we do not bury this talent bestowed upon us on these and similar occasions, we shall in truth enter into the joy of the Lord.
— If you will keep in mind that, according to the Scriptures, the Lord’s “judgments are in all the earth” (Psalms 104:7), then every event will teach you knowledge of God.
— If, according to the scriptures, the cause of all that is involuntary lies in what is voluntary, no one is a man’s greater enemy than himself.
— If you wish to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth, always urge yourself to rise above sensory things and to cling with hope to God alone. Thus compelling yourself to turn inwards, you will meet principalities and powers, which wage war against you by suggestions in thoughts. If you overcome them by prayer and remain in good hope, you will receive Divine grace, which will free you from the wrath to come.”

from “Early Fathers From the Philokalia,” trans. by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 86 – 90 at
mark ascetic 6
Mark’s works are traditionally the following:
(1) of the spiritual law,
(2) Concerning those who think to be justified through works (both ascetic treatises for monks);
(3) of penitence;
(4) of baptism;
(5) To Nicholas on refraining from anger and lust;
(6) Disputation against a scholar (against appearing to civil courts and on celibacy);
(7) Consultation of the mind with its own soul (reproaches that he makes Adam, Satan, and other men responsible for his sins instead of himself);
(8) on fasting and humility [now considered spurious]
(9) on Melchisedek (against people who think that Melchisedek was an apparition of the Word of God).
All the above works are named and described in the “Myrobiblion” and are published in Gallandi’s collection. To them must be added:
(10) Against the Nestorians (a treatise against that heresy arranged without order).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: