St Mark the AsceticCall to mind who He is; and what He became for our sakes.

Reflect first on the sublime light of His Divinity revealed to the essences above (in so far as they can receive it) and glorified in the heavens by all spiritual beings:

angels, archangels, thrones, dominions, principalities, authorities, cherubim and seraphim, and the spiritual powers whose names we do not know, as the Apostle hints (cf. Eph. 1:21).

Then think to what depth of human humiliation He descended in His ineffable goodness, becoming in all respects like us who were dwelling in darkness and the shadow of death (cf. Isa. 9:2; Matt. 4:16), captives through the transgression of Adam and dominated by the enemy through the activity of the passions.

When we were in this harsh captivity, ruled by invisible and bitter death, the Master of all visible and invisible creation was not ashamed to humble Himself and to take upon Himself our human nature, subject as it was to the passions of shame and desire and condemned by divine judgment.

And He became like us in all things except that He was without sin (cf. Heb. 4:15), that is, without ignoble passions.

All the penalties imposed by divine judgment upon man for the sin of the first transgression – death, toil, hunger, thirst and the like – He took upon Himself, becoming what we are, so that we might become what He is.

The Logos [Greek for “Word”] became man, so that man might become Logos.

Being rich, He became poor for our sakes, so that through His poverty we might become rich (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9).

In His great love for man He became like us, so that through every virtue we might become like Him.

From the time that Christ came to dwell with us, man created according to God’s image and likeness is truly renewed through the grace and power of the Spirit, attaining to the perfect love which ‘casts out fear’ (1 John 4:18) – the love which is no longer able to fail, for ‘love never fails’ (1 Cor. 13:8).

Love, says John, is God; and ‘he who dwells in love dwells in God’ (1 John 4:16).

The apostles were granted this love, and so were those who practised virtue as they did, offering themselves completely to the Lord, and following Christ with all their heart throughout their lifetime.

Mark the Hermit (5th-6th c.): Letter to Nicolas the Solitary, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. I (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), p. 155.