Saturday, October 23, 2010

Counsels on the Spiritual Life: Mark the Monk (Book Review)

WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE, I had the chance to read Fr. Tim Vivian’s translation of the Coptic Life of Antony. It remains my favorite translation of The Life. With Counsels on the Spiritual Life: Mark the Monk,
Fr. Tim provides us with another edition of edifying scholarship.

In this two-volume translation and compilation, Fr. Tim and Augustine Cassiday bring us a collection of the known writings of St. Mark the Monk. As an anthology of what we have of St. Mark, it is quite valuable. I highly recommend it to those who are interested in this saint and his thinking.

The first volume is reason enough to pick up the book. It includes spiritual counsel offered to Mark’s disciple Nicholas, as well as chapters on repentance and fasting. The crown-jewel of the work of volume 1 is chapter 3, “On the Spiritual Law.”

In volume 2, we get St. Mark’s theological, including christological, teachings on certain topics. For those looking solely for spiritual guidance, some parts of the book, particularly volume 2, may seem a bit dry and tedious. This is through no fault of the editors, who goal was to provide us a better understanding of who St. Mark was and of his writings. To be sure, the “purely” spiritual material is reason enough to get this book. And, as would be expected, many of the “theological” sections are replete with edifying material and spiritual insight.

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