I’ve recently begun reading the Philokalia (“Love of the beautiful”), an anthology of writings of the Desert Fathers of Eastern Christianity. It is an incredible library of wisdom, collected over the course of many centuries. Many of the writings collected here are of incredible value, and plunge the depths of Christ’s mystery in a way little else does. What is remarkable about much of these writings isn’t just the theological richness, but also the practical wisdom found in often simple statements.
I’ve been particularly attracted to the writings of St. Mark the Ascetic, a desert hermit who may have been a disciple of St. John Chrysostom. The Philokalia contains several of his works, including “On the Spiritual Law – Two Hundred Texts”. Below I have posted the first ten of these texts. I encourage you to download the entire text, or purchase a copy of it for your own study. A PDF can be found here.
1. Because you have often asked what the Apostle means when he says that ‘the law is spiritual’ (Rom. 7:14), and what kind of spiritual knowledge and action characterizes those who wish to observe it, we shall speak of this as far as we can.
2. First of all, we know that God is the beginning, middle and end of everything good; and it is impossible for us to have faith in anything good or to carry it into effect except in Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
3. Everything good is given by the Lord providentially; and he who has faith that this is so will not lose what he has been given.
4. Steadfast faith is a strong tower; and for one who has faith Christ comes to be all.
5. May He who inaugurates every good thing inaugurate all that you undertake, so that it may be done with His blessing.
6. When reading the Holy Scriptures, he who is humble and engaged in spiritual work will apply everything to himself and not to someone else.
7. Call upon God to open the eyes of your heart, so that you may see the value of prayer and of spiritual reading when understood and applied.
8. If a man has some spiritual gift and feels compassion for those who do not have it, he preserves the gift because of his compassion. But a boastful man will lose it through succumbing to the temptations of boastfulness.
9. The mouth of a humble man speaks the truth; but he who speaks against the truth is like the servant who struck the Lord on the face (cf. Mark 14:65).
10. Do not become a disciple of one who praises himself, in case you learn pride instead of humility.
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