In our recently finished reading of St. Mark the Ascetic’s No Righteousness by Works, I have been recalling his words on the virtue of stillness over the recent weeks. Mark boldly says, “Stillness helps us by making evil inoperative.” What a thought, evil inoperative! He states the relation to stillness is deeply wedded to four other virtues; long suffering, humility, vigilance, and self control. A life of stillness and these four virtues along with prayer, Mark says will help us grow in holiness through attaining dispassion which ultimately leads to making evil inoperative in our lives.
This seems like a lot to take in, just reading and understanding it, let alone trying to obtain this practice of virtues over one’s lifetime. But, as I have been praying and thinking about the way in which St. Mark understands stillness, I have found encouragement knowing that Mark believes this is a daunting task as well. For Mark, stillness is not just being able to sit or be quiet for a long period of time, although that might not be a bad thing, but understands it as a posture that is both the physical as well as of the intellect/heart, (the monks often referred to the intellect as “the eye of the heart”) and this takes time. He goes on further to explain stillness as first being obtained in the body and then in the intellect. His emphasis is on both, but he knows that often monks can be tricked into thinking stillness in the body is stillness in the intellect and therefore do not pursue true stillness. He is also aware that to get to stillness of the intellect from just in the body comes when breaking down the wall that separates them. Mark believes that the way in which this wall is destroyed is through prayer.
So, why am I writing on stillness? It is my observation that we as a culture are day in and day out bombarded with images, noises and voices that keep us from this deeply desired Voice of the Shepherd, which is only found in stillness. This virtue, according to Mark if pursued like fine gold can eventually lead to not only attaining dispassion, but making evil inoperative!
Blessings in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,