Friday, November 19, 2010

Texts on Thanksgiving: Mark the Ascetic

The following text is from St. Mark the Ascetic's letter to Nicolas the Solitary:

Try, then, to remember unceasingly all the blessings that have been given to you by God. In particular, always keep in mind that miraculous grace which you told us He conferred on you when you were sailing with your mother from the Holy Land to Constantinople. Recall the terrifying and uncontrollable violence of the storm that broke on you during the night, and how everyone in thye ship, including the crew and your mother herself, perished in the sea; and how by an incredible acdt of divine power you and two others alone were thrown clear of the wreck and escaped. Remember how you came providentially to Ankyra, and how, with fatherly compassion, you were given hospitatlity by a certain freeman, and became friends with his devout son Epiphanios. Then both of you under the guidance of a holy man, entered on the path of salvation and were received as true sons of by the servants of

What repayment for all these blessings can you possibly make to Him who has called your soul to eternal life? It is only right, then, that you should live no longer for yourself, but for Christ, who died for your sake and rose again. in your struggle to acquire every virtue and to fulfill every commandment, always seek "the good, acceptable and perfect will of God," endeavoring with all your strength to pursue it.

From this brief passage, we can gather that Nicolas, the letter's addresee, sometime in his past was returning home from a pilgramage to the Holy Land. During the course of his return voyage, the ship was overtaken by a violent storm that killed most of the crew, most of the passengers, and Nicolas' own mother. Nicolas himself was thrown adrift at sea and eventually washed up at Ankyra. Yet for all this, Mark insists that Nicolas should be thankful, not only generally - as if it were some default disposition in spite of the circumstances - but particularly about this miraculous grace above all others. Why? Because Nicolas emerged from this harrowing ordeal a better person, a reformed person, a true son of God.

Mark saw providence working for the benefit of God's people even in their trials. Do we reserve our gratitude for blessings which conform to our expectations?

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