The Elder Saint Marcos (St. Mark) El Antony
Translated on July 12, 2017 from Arabic by Maryan Axia
Original posting: http://www.stmacariusmonastery.org/st_mark/sm021208.htm
This blessed saint was born in Upper Cairo from a city called Manshaat Al Nasara (translated the town of Nazarenes). His biological father was called Makhloof and his blessed mother’s name was Dskna. When they were blessed with a child, they name him Marcos and they raised him with good Christian teaching as it was the custom for the children of that period. When the child was 15-years old, his mom took him to the church. She met an elder saint named Anba Saweres, the Bishop of the city of Assuit. He carried the child in his arms and asked him about his name. The child answered, “Marcos”. The Bishop prophesied about him saying, “Truly, I tell you, my son, that you will be like St. Mark, the first preacher of the Gospel in Cairo.” He then blessed him and left him with his mother and departed.
His blessed mother was joyful because of this prophecy and raised him diligently. She took more care of him now than previously, because his father had reposed and left him an orphan.
+ Marcos’ father and grandfather used to seek guidance from a saintly priest named the hegumen Rofael Al Nena’ey. His parents were careful to fast every day until the ninth hour of the day (3PM in modern time). In such a manner, Marcos was raised under the example of his parents, as everyday he wouldn’t eat until the ninth hour of the day. At age five, he did not eat meat. When he saw his mother standing to pray, he would girdle himself with a belt and remain at her side until she finished praying.
+ Whenever his mother gave him lunch for the day as he was going to work, he would give our his lunch to all the hungry people he met on the road, while fasting until he returned home to his mother in the evening.
+ Once, as he was harvesting the crop with the other workers, a woman came and she was stealing what he was collecting. When Marcos saw her doing this, he used to take whatever he harvested daily and put it on the side in addition to what she was already collecting. The woman marveled at the mercy in the heart of this young one, and she reproached herself for what she used to do.
+ His saintly mother was consistent in her church attendance and receipt of the Holy Mysteries. She did not prepare any food until after the ninth hour of the day, and she only cooked legumes that they ate with oil. When her neighbors noticed this, they became consistent in fasting with her until the ninth hour of the day. They only ate from her food, because despite her meager state, she never withheld mercy from her needy neighbors or any one who was hungry. Marcos noticed that whenever a poor person stood at her door and she couldn’t find anything to give him, she took what she can collect from chicken eggs or a small amount of wheat and give it to this poor person, without turning him away empty-handed.
This saintly and pure woman continued to provide these acts of mercy until her home became a shelter for the needy and the monks. Marcos, her son, did not cease to help her and to imitate her works.
Marcos during his youth:
When Marcos turned 23 years of age, he longed to become a monk. He bid his mother farewell and went to one of the monasteries close to his town. The brothern who were residing in that monastery did not continually fast everyday until the ninth hour! When Marcos saw the monks in this state, he left them and returned to his saintly mother to take her blessing and leave for the reputable monasteries where the monks are well known for their diligent struggle and life of asceticism.
When his mother saw him, she rebuked him and said, “I thought that you, my son, have died and ended, and I lost all hope that I would see you in this world again, because the one who has decided to be a monk is one who dies completely from this world. So why, my son, did you come back and forget the saying in the Bible: ‘No one, having put his hand on the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God’?” (Luke 9:62)
When Marcos heard the rebuke of his mother, he could not remain fixed in front of her, but quickly left to the wilderness of Saint Antony the Great in the eastern desert. Through God’s care and will, the hegumen Rofael Al Nena’ey, who was a friend of the family of Marcos, was residing there at the time. When he saw the young man, he was exceedingly joyful. He instructed him for a few days, and then he sent him to the monastery of St. Paul so that he can worship there in solitude, because the young man did not have a beard. What the Hegumen Rofael meant from doing this is for Marcos to live in absolute solitude first without mingling with any of the brothern until his beard grow out, and not even to speak in front of them.
The struggles of the monk Marcos
At the monastery of St. Paul [the anchorite]:
And so he left. Moros traveled to the monastery of St. Paul and lived in solitude there to worship. He dug for himself there a grave next to the garden, and he used to fast inside that grave two days at a time. And when the enemy bothered him with hunger on the first day, he used to comfort and calm himself by saying to himself, “Do not worry my soul and do not sorrow for it is written, ‘Weeping will lodge at evening, But great joy in the morning’ [Psalm 29:6, LXX]. So tonight you are fasting, O my soul, and in the morning you will eat and be joyful.” His soul was consoled and convinced with these good words and wait fasting from day to day. Father Marcos grew in his fasting gradually a little by little until he would fast three days at a time, and then four days at a time, and soon after he completed one week.
He spent a total of six years at the monastery of St. Paul.
Then he was moved to the monastery of St. Antony:
The monk Marcos worked at the monastery of St. Paul as a carrier of firewood. His brothern the monks used to force him to eat and break the rule that he set for himself. Behind their backs, he used to take what they gave him of food and bread and feed it to the camels, as he was walking on his path, continuing to fast his seven days.
And as thus, he resided at St. Paul’s monastery for six years without sitting at the table with his brothern the monks. No one saw him eat, but whenever he ate, he did so alone. When he fasted, no one knew the limit of his fasting and he continued to grow weak as a result of asceticism. His brothern were forced to move him from St. Paul’s monastery to the large assembly of monks at St. Antony’s monastery, where they assigned one of the monks to take care of him and provide him with food daily. He would refuse and leave the food on the table for two days until it becomes dry and rotten, and then mix it with water and eat it.
+ Marcos the monk became very sorrowful for monks in both monasteries were not disciplined with eating. Whenever he ate, he wept as he was eating. When his brothern asked him for the reason of why he wept at the table, he told them, “As such, my children, the brothern asked St. Pachoumius of the Koinonia (fourth century) about the reason for his weeping at the table, and he said to them, ‘I do not weep except for you, my brothern, because I eat bread alone, and you eat of every kind.’”
+ Whenever any of his brothern the monk urged him to eat honey or a little oil at the table, he would rebuke him saying, “Stop this, lest you blind me.” He did not refer to physical blindness, but he explained to his brothern, “The soul that is filled with the physical lusts blinds itself from the vision of God.” And he would always tell his children whenever they felt pity towards his body due to its weakness and old age, “No, my children, do not trust this body and do not loosen its ropes until the door of the grave, lest from fullness, lusts move within us.”
+ In brief, this saint was a living example in the life of asceticism and the renunciation of the world for his children and his brothern the monks. Marvelous secrete and strange hidden things were revealed to him. Even as he was in the flesh among his children from the monks, he used to see through the spirit all the Orthodox Kingdoms. He recalled every one of their kinds, meaning the kinds of Ethiopia, Rome, Europe, and others. The Lord proclaimed the name of this elder saint in their countries that they used to visit him with their gifts and seek his help at times of their troubles.
+ One of these kings visited the monastery and said that he saw a vision of St. Antony, as he was calling for his help when he was at war. But when he saw Saint Marcos El Antony coming to him from the garden of the monastery holding two pitchers of water, he realized that this was the person whom he saw in the vision. He rejoiced exceedingly and fell down bowing on the ground. Because of his great joy in meeting the elder, he asked him to accept a gift from him, but Saint Marcos did not accept. But the brothern begged the elder to ask the king to make for them a large bell, which is currently present at the monastery. The king left the monastery, made the large bell, and sent it to them. This bell has become a living memorial of the miracle that the Elder Saint Marcos El Antony performed with the European. As a result, all denomenations of the Europeans visited the monastery asking about our father the elder, and he granted them the blessing.
+ No one who visited the elder from those who were close or far left without being joyful and comforted, even the brothern who lived with him in the same monastery. He did not let anyone whose soul was sorrowful remain as such with comforting him with the Word of God, and his sorrow would leave him at once.
+ Those who visited the monastery brought expensive gifts for the elder. He did not look upon these gifts except with weeping for the visitors until they return to the Lord, away from their sins and transgressions.
+ Towards the end of his days, he was consistently weeping to the point that he asked the brothern to keep the door of the Tafus (the place where the monks who repose are buried at monastery) open for him to go down and live among the dead and weep. When they stopped him, he answer them saying, “My children, do not rebuke me because this is what some of the elders have said, ‘The one who lives among the dead, does not ever sin, because he sees the state of the one whose heart has sinned and died, and realizes what has become of him, so he weeps for what will happen to him in the same way.’”
+ He used to always ask the chanter to chant for him the Lamentation of Jeremiah using the sad tune (what is chanted during the 12th hour of the Crucifixion Friday), and he enjoined everyone to remain silent while weeping during the chanting, until the end of the lamentation.
+ An event is worth mentioning about this elder. This incident occurred to him and Father Matta (Matthew, Pope Mattaos the Poor) on the road, when prince Yalbga arrested them to take revenge on them because of the riots where the Europeans committed robberies and burglaries in the city of Alexandira. Prince Yalbga, who was ruler in those days, took revenge on the Christians, and sent messengers to all the monasteries under his authority asking them for money.
When the messengers arrived at St. Antony’s monastery, when the Abbot was Father Matta, the leader of the messengers arrested Father Matta and punished him much in order to obtain the funds and ammunition that belonged to the monastery. The leader of the troops did not respond to the pleas of the Abbot, Father Matta, to stop beating him. Then, the elder Marcos El Antony became angry with him and rebuked the leader saying, “Can you not see that he is pleading with you in the Name of God to have mercy on him, and you do not accepting pleasing God.” When the leader of the soldiers heard the words of the elder, he grew more angry and ordered the soldiers to let go of Father Matta, the Abbot of the monastery, and beat the elder Father Marcos El Antony instead. As thus, the soldiers threw him on the ground and beat him in front of the leader.
When the leader of the soldiers finished punishing the monks, their elder, and their abbot, he bound the elder Marcos, Father Matta, and a group of the brothern and left with them to Cairo. He tormented them much on the road through hunger, thirst, and walking barefoot in the desert. Whenever the elder asked the leader of the soldiers to give them a little water to drink, he refused. He barely gave the elder some water, but not his companions. So the elder Marcos abstained and did not accept the water from him, because he did not want to drink the water alone without his companions. He placed the water in front of the leader and rebuked him saying, “Behold, the Lord our God quenches our thirst because he is more merciful than you are.” Then, he lifted his eyes to heaven, and the Lord responded to his plea and poured a heavy rain on them immediately even so the troop was stopped. The leader and his men had to stop where they were and it was impossible for the horses to move from the heaviness of the flowing rainwater. And then, they all sat down to rest and all of them drank water and were joyful. They asked the elder saint to pray for them to arrive to Cairo and enter it safely. But he responded to them and said, “God will not allow you to enter Cairo, but you will return to your monastery safely.”
This is what happened that Prince Yalbga issued a decree from Cairo and sent it to the troops ordering them to release them and to allow their return to the monastery (from book number 24 history at the library of Saint Mary’s monastery Haret El Zawia – page 84A, 85, and 86). We mentioned this incident in brief in the life of Pope Mattaos the first (Marcos Magazine, October 2011 issue, from the history of our church, page 28).
The last days of the Elder Saint Marcos El Antony:
Towards the end of his days, the Holy Spirit informed him that his hour is near. He then began to console his children for his separation from them and remind them of the saying that our Lord Jesus Christ said to His disciples, “If you love Me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). This elder father often referred his children to nearness of the hour of his departure from this world, until he became suddenly weak and fell into the throes of death, and began bid his children with the farewell of death.
The elder remained in this illness until he completed his years. Even though he reached this difficult aging and endless weakness, but he did not lose his strength of mind and he did not lose his vision from the excessive weeping. Rather, he recognized everyone who came to him and consoled him, as he deserved.
His final hours:
When he felt that his final moment arrived, he pointed his children and his brothern to go outside and leave him alone. It was the sixth hour of the day (noon) and the bell had sounded for prayer. When the brothern left for prayers and left him alone, he leaned his head on one of his disciples and made the sign of the Cross over his organs and his senses. His spirit was released in that hour with all calmness and comfort. Some of the brothern did not wait for finish the prayers and went to find that his spirit had already departed him. They mourned him with great sorrow and carried his body to the church. Hegumen Abraam performed the funeral services on him after they had shrouded him with pure shrouds. They buried him in a new grave inside the garden.
The repose of the Elder Saint Marcos El Antony occurred at the sixth hour (or noon) of the day, on Monday, the 8th of Abib in the year 1102 A.D.
(Summarized from the book Miamer the month of Abib – number 24 history at the library of the historical St. Mary’s monastery in Haret El Zawia, Cairo).