Marcus Eremita or Markus the Ascetic
May 20 is the Commemoration of Marcus Eremita or Markus the Ascetic .
“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’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;
(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).”
“St. Mark was an early fifth century monk also known as Mark the Monk or Mark the Hermit. The following quotations are taken from his writing entitled “On Those who Think that They are Made Righteous by Works: Two Hundred and Twenty-Six Texts” in “The Philokalia: Volume One”, compiled by St. Nikodimos and St. Makarios, translated and edited by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard and Kallistos Ware (London: Faber and Faber, 1983). The numbers that follow the quotations do not indicate page numbers but paragraph numbers.
One of the interesting things to note about St. Mark’s writing on this subject is his unwillingness to teach easy-believism, yet his equal unwillingness to teach that God gives us heaven or hell based merely on an examination of our external works. St. Mark teaches that Christ will judge each man “according to whether his works are done with faith or without faith” in Christ (§22). Whether we get into heaven or are condemned to hell, Mark teaches, depends on whether our works were done with faith in Christ. This is a little different from the typical evangelical way of speaking about salvation. This means it is based on works (in some sense), yet it is ultimately based on faith. Could this early Father of the church be teaching something compatible with evangelical doctrine? Let the reader decide for herself….
“Those who, because of the rigour of their own ascetic practice, despise the less zealous, think that they are made righteous by physical works. But we are even more foolish if we rely on theoretical knowledge and disparage the ignorant. Even though knowledge is true, it is still not firmly established if unaccompanied by works. For everything is established by being put into practice” (§11-12).
“When we fulfil the commandments in our outward actions, we receive from the Lord what is appropriate; but any real benefit we gain depends on our inward intention. If we want to do something but cannot, then before God, who knows our hearts, it is as if we have done it. This is true whether the intended action is good or bad. The intellect does many good and bad things without the body, whereas the body can do neither good nor evil without the intellect. This is because the law of freedom applies to what happens before we act.” (§15-17).
“Some without fulfilling the commandments think that they posses true faith. Others fulfil the commandments and then expect the kingdom as a reward due to them. Both are mistaken. A master is under no obligation to reward his slaves; on the other hand, those who do not serve him well are not given their freedom.” (§18).
“When the Scripture says “He will reward every man according to his works” (Matt. 16:27), do not imagine that works in themselves merit either hell or the kingdom. On the contrary, Christ rewards each man according to whether his works are done with faith or without faith in Himself; and He is not a dealer bound by contract, but God our Creator and Redeemer.” (§22).” http://theophilogue.com/tag/mark-the-hermit/
Tim Vivian (Trans) “On the Spiritual Life: St Mark the Hermit” [St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2009]