Commemorated on April 5
The Monk Mark
was born in Athens. He related about his life to Abba Serapion, who by the will
of God visited him before his death.
In his youth he had
studied philosophy. After the death of his parents, Saint Mark withdrew into
Egypt and settled into a cave of the Thracian Mount (in Ethiopia). The monk
spent ninety-five years in seclusion and during this while not only did he not
see an human face, but not even a beast or bird. The first thirty years were
for the Monk Mark the most difficult time. Barefoot and bedraggled, he suffered
in winter from the cold, and in summer from the heat. The sparse wilderness
plants served him for food, and sometimes he was reduced to eat the dust and
drink bitter sea-water. Unclean spirits chased after the Monk Mark, promising
to drown him in the sea, or if they caught hold of him to drag him off down
from the mountain, with shouts of: "Depart from our land! From the
beginning of the world no one amongst mankind hath come hither – why hast thou
dared to come?"
After thirty years of
tribulation, Divine grace came upon the ascetic. Angels brought him food, and
on his body there grew long hair, which protected him from the cold and heat.
"I beheld, – said he to the Monk Serapion, – the likeness of the Divine
paradise and in it the prophets of God Elias and Enoch, and everything that I
sought, – the Lord set forth to me". During the time of his conversation
with Abba Serapion the Monk Mark enquired, how things stood in the world with
the law of Christ, and whether persecutions against Christians still continued.
Hearing, that idol-worship had long since ceased, the saint rejoiced and asked:
"Are there now amidst the world saints working miracles, as the Lord did
speak of in His Gospel: `If ye have faith even as a grain of mustard seed, ye
will say to this mountain: move hither from there, and it wilt move, – and
nothing shalt be impossible for you' (Mt. 17: 20)". At this moment, as the
saint pronounced these words, the mountain moved from its place 5,000 cubits
(approximately 2.5 kilometers) and was shifted nigh towards the sea. The Monk
Mark saw that the mountain had moved, and he turned to it: "I did not
order thee to move from thine place, but did converse with a brother; wherefore
go thou to thine own place!" After this the mountain actually returned to
its own place. Abba Serapion fell down in fright. The Monk Mark took him up by
the hand and asked: "Hast thou not then seen suchlike miracles in thy
lifetime?" – "No, father" – answered Starets Serapion. Then
the Monk Mark wept bitterly and said: "Woe unto the earth, since upon it
live Christians in name only, and not in deeds".
After this the Monk
Mark invited Abba Serapion to a meal. An Angel brought the food. Abba Serapion
said, that never had he eaten such tasty food nor drank such sweet water.
"Brother Serapion, – answered the Monk Mark, – didst thou see, what
beneficence God doth send His servants! In all mine days there was sent from
God only one breadloaf and one fish, and now on account of thee He hath doubled
the meal – and sent us two loaves and two fishes. By suchlike meal the Lord
God hath nourished me during all the course of time after my first sufferings
Before his end, the
Monk Mark raised up prayers for the salvation of Christians, the earth and
everything in the world living upon it in the love of Christ. He gave final
instruction s to Abba Serapion to bury him in the cave and cover over the
entrance to it. Abba Serapion was a witness of how the soul of the one hundred
thirty year old elder – the Monk Mark, was conveyed to Heaven (+ 400).
After the burial of
the saint, two Angels in the form of hermits guided Abba Serapion into the
inner wilderness to the great Starets John. Abba Serapion recounted to the
monks of this monastery about the life and end of the Monk Mark.
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.