April 5, 2010

Saint Mark the Anchorite of Athens

St. Mark the Anchorite of Athens (Feast Day - March 5 and May 20)

Saint Mark was born in Athens. He related his life to Abba Serapion who, by the will of God, visited him before his death.

He had studied philosophy in his youth. After the death of his parents, St Mark withdrew into Egypt and settled into a cave of Mount Trache (in Ethiopia). He spent ninety-five years in seclusion and during this time not only did he not see a human face, but not even a beast or bird.

The first thirty years were the most difficult for St Mark. Barefoot and bedraggled, he suffered from the cold in winter, and from the heat in summer. The desert plants served him for food, and sometimes he had to eat the dust and drink bitter sea water. Unclean spirits chased after St Mark, promising to drown him in the sea, or to drag him down from the mountain, shouting, "Depart from our land! From the beginning of the world no one has come here. Why have you dared to come?"

After thirty years of tribulation, divine grace came upon the ascetic. Angels brought him food, and long hair grew on his body, protecting him from the cold and heat. He told Abba Serapion, "I saw the likeness of the divine Paradise, and in it the prophets of God Elias and Enoch. The Lord sent me everything that I sought."

During his conversation with Abba Serapion, St Mark inquired how things stood in the world. He asked about the Church of Christ, and whether persecutions against Christians still continued. Hearing that idol worship had ceased long ago, the saint rejoiced and asked, "Are there now in the world saints working miracles, as the Lord spoke of in His Gospel, 'If ye have faith even as a grain of mustard seed, ye will say to this mountain, move from that place, and it will move, and nothing shall be impossible for you' (Mt.17:20)?"

As the saint spoke these words, the mountain moved from its place 5,000 cubits (approximately 2.5 kilometers) and went toward the sea. When St Mark saw that the mountain had moved, he said, "I did not order you to move from your place, but was conversing with a brother. Go back to your place!" After this, the mountain actually returned to its place. Abba Serapion fell down in fright. St Mark took him by the hand and asked, "Have you never seen such miracles in your lifetime?"

"No, Father," Abba Serapion replied. Then St Mark wept bitterly and said, "Alas, today there are Christians in name only, but not in deeds."

After this, St Mark invited Abba Serapion to a meal and an angel brought them food. Abba Serapion said that never had he eaten such tasty food nor drunk such sweet water. "Brother Serapion," answered St Mark, "did you see what beneficence God sends His servants? In all my days here God sent me only one loaf of bread and one fish. Now for your sake He has doubled the meal and sent us two loaves and two fishes. The Lord God has nourished me with such meals ever since my first sufferings from evil."

Before his death, St Mark prayed for the salvation of Christians, for the earth and everything in the world living upon it in the love of Christ. He gave final instructions to Abba Serapion to bury him in the cave and to cover the entrance. Abba Serapion was a witness of how the soul of the one hundred- thirty-year-old Elder Mark, was taken to Heaven by angels.

After the burial of the saint, two angels in the form of hermits guided Abba Serapion into the inner desert to the great Elder John. Abba Serapion told the monks of this monastery about the life and death of St Mark.



Behold the final hour on earth for me ticks,
I go where the Lord shines in place of the sun,
From the dusty, fleshly garment, I am leaving,
And before Your face O Christ, I am departing.
Just one more wish over the earth, I am unfolding
Before Your Throne, with prayer I penetrate:
For all mankind, I desire salvation,
For everyone and for all, freedom from sin.
I desire that the virtuous ascetics be saved,
And all diligent laborers in Your field.
I desire that prisoners [for the Faith] because of You, be saved,
For the sake of Your love, who sacrifice themselves,
And for sinners cruel, that, violence commit
And those who endure violence for Your sake,
Salvation to the monasteries [Lavras] with monks plentiful,
Salvation to the faithful; the tearful and the poor,
Salvation to the churches throughout the whole universe,
The Shepherds of the Church, to all as to me,
All the servants of God and handmaidens all,
Whom the world knows or whom in loneliness hide:
Salvation to the baptized ones and the adopted ones,
With the Life-giving Spirit of God enlivened:
Salvation to the humble and the merciful,
Faithful emperors and princes faithful
To every heart of man, the healthy and the infirm,
And salvation to my brother Serapion.
O Powerful Lord, that is my wish
And final prayer. Let it be Your will!