St Mark the Ascetic: on going one’s own way

by abbamoses

St. Mark the Ascetic

Saint Mark (5th c.; Commemorated March 5) was born in Athens and in his youth was a disciple of St John Chrysostom, but later withdrew to the desert to live as a monk. He was known as “the Ascetic” for the unusual strictness of his life. It is said that he knew the entire Bible by heart.

Several of his writings are included in the first volume of the Philokalia; a more complete collection is Counsels on the Spiritual Life in the ‘Popular Patristics’ series published by St Vladimir’s Seminary Press. As I read this book, I’ll try to post some helpful excerpts.

Therefore, my son, the person who wishes to take up his cross and follow Christ must especially give heed to knowledge and understanding by unceasingly examining the thoughts he has, and by showing great concern for his salvation and constantly driving ahead towards God …

The person who goes his own way, without some sort of gospel knowledge and discernment and guidance, often stumbles and falls into numerous pits and snares of the Evil One, frequently goes astray and stumbles into numerous dangers, and has no real sense of purpose. Many have undergone numerous pains and ascetic labors and have endured many mortifications and hardships for God’s sake — but their stubbornness in going their own way and their lack of discernment and inability to ask their neighbor for help caused all their many toils and labors to be for nothing.

— from “A Letter to Nicholas”