Counsels on the Spiritual Life

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The conflict between the mind and the soul
1. Listen, rational soul, partner in all my deliberations, I wish to explain to you a certain mysterious and ordinary matter. I have undertaken this without having been cleansed of passions, but I am, by the grace of Christ, nevertheless, devoting myself to it for a short while. I am fully aware, dear soul, that both you and I, naturally influenced by ignorance, are prone to error and on account of this blame others for our sins, saying that the evil lies outside us. Sometimes we lay the blame on Adam, while at other times Satan, and other times other people. In doing so we imagine that we are waging war against others, while we are really waging war against ourselves. Thinking that we are protecting one another, you and I are in reality fighting against each other; believing that we are benefiting one another, we are really harming each other, like a madman with his self-inflicted wounds, rightly enduring useless articulations and reproaches. We appear to love the commandments, but because of error we hate what informs them. Because of this, I clearly see now that we are not drawn wrongfully into either evil or good by some sort of power; on the contrary, from the time we are baptized, when we undertake any kind of endeavor using our free will we serve either God or the Devil, and one or the other quite rightly compels us to take his side.

Counsels on the Spiritual Life

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The spiritual counsels of Mark, a fifth century monk in Asia Minor, are equally rich in theological insight and historical interest. His writings were deeply valued by Byzantine ascetics, were circulated during the Reformation, and were read by Lutheran divines and Roman theologians. The general level of interest in his works during the first half of the second millennium is eloquently reported in a fourteenth century manuscript, as a slogan often repeated by monastics and ascetics: “Sell everything and buy Mark.” His words on taking responsibility for one another out of love, his practical advice on the need for repentance, and his strident emphasis on the kind of unity evident in Christ directly relate to modern Christians and may provide a useful point of departure for ecumenical dialogue.

These are important texts … as evidence of the seamless robe of monastic thinking and praying in a formative era for the Christian mind and heart.
- The Rt Revd Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

THE TRANSLATORS The Revd Dr Tim Vivian is Assistant Professor in Religious Studies at California Sate University, Bakersfield, and the translator of numerous early patristic texts. Dr Augustine Casiday is a Lecturer in Historical Theology and Director of the MA in Monastic Studies, University of Wales, Lampeter.

Additional Information

Author Mark the Monk
Pages 340
Cover Soft
Width (mm) 127
Height (mm) 183

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