Friday, March 22, 2013

Baptism, Grace, & Obedience

For the last Friday of Lent, here are some quotes from Mark the Ascetic (5th century) found in the Philokalia. All but one of the following come from his treatise, On Those Who Think that They are Made Righteous by Works:

Grace has been given mystically to those who have been baptized into Christ; and it becomes active within them to the extent that they actively observe the commandments. Grace never ceases to help us secretly; but to do good – as far as lies in our power – depends on us.

Everyone baptized in the orthodox manner has received mystically the fullness of grace; but he becomes conscious of this grace only to the extent that he observes the commandments.

To him who hungers for Christ grace is food; to him who is thirsty, a reviving drink; to him who is cold, a garment; to him who is weary, rest; to him who prays, assurance; to him who mourns, consolation.

He who relies on theoretical knowledge alone is not yet a faithful servant: a faithful servant is one who expresses his faith in Christ through obedience to His commandments.

Each man’s knowledge is genuine to the extent that it is confirmed by gentleness, humility, and love.

He who wants to cross the spiritual sea is long-suffering, humble, vigilant, and self-controlled. If he impetuously embarks on it without these four virtues, he agitates his heart, but cannot cross.

The self-controlled refrain from gluttony; those who have renounced possessions, from greed; the tranquil from loquacity; the pure, from self-indulgence; the modest, from unchastity; the self-dependent, from avarice; the gentle, from agitation; the humble, from self-esteem; the obedient, from quarrelling; the self-critical, from hypocrisy. Similarly, those who pray are protected from despair; the poor, from having many possessions; confessors of the faith, from denial; martyrs, from idolatry.

Every word of Christ shows us God’s mercy, justice and wisdom and, if we listen gladly, their power enters into us. That is why the unmerciful and unjust, listening to Christ with repugnance, were not able to understand the wisdom of God, but even crucified Him for teaching it. So we, too, should ask ourselves whether we  listen to Him gladly. For He said, ‘He who loves Me will keep my commandments, and he will be loved by My Father., and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him’ (cf. John 14:21). Do you see how He has hidden His manifestation in the commandments? Of all the commandments, therefore, the most comprehensive is to love God and our neighbor. This love is made firm through abstaining from material things, and through stillness of thoughts.

[Self-control] erodes the outer man, refining him, stripping him down to the bone, so that through faith, ascetic effort and the energy of grace the inner man may be ‘renewed day by day’ (2 Corinthians 4:16), advancing to the higher state. He grows in love, is adorned with gentleness, rejoices greatly in spirit, is ruled by the peace of Christ, led by kindness, guarded by goodness, protected by fear of God, enlightened by understanding and knowledge, illumined by wisdom, guided by humility. The intellect, renewed by the Spirit through these and similar virtues, discovers within itself the divine image, and perceives the spiritual and ineffable beauty of the divine likeness; and so, learning from itself, it attains the rich wisdom of the inner law.
(Letter to Nicholas the Solitary)

Prayer is called a virtue, but in reality it is the mother of all virtues: for it gives birth to them through union with Christ.

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