Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist
(Martyr, Feast Day 25 April )

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Feast of Saint Mark

crucifixion3.jpg (1600 bytes)The Book of Acts mentions a Mark, or John Mark, a kinsman (cousin) of Barnabas (Colossians 4:10). The house of his mother Mary was a meeting place for Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 12:12). When Paul and Barnabas, who had been in Antioch, came to Jerusalem, they brought Mark back to Antioch with them (12:25), and he accompanied them on their first missionary journey (13:5), but left them prematurely and returned to Jerusalem (13:13). When Paul and Barnabas were about to set out on a second missionary journey, Barnabas proposed to take Mark, but Paul thought him unreliable, so that eventually Barnabas made one journey taking Mark, and Paul another journey taking Silas (15:36-40). Mark is not mentioned again in Acts. However, it appears that he became more reliable, for Paul mentions him as a trusted assistant in Colossians 4:10 and again in 2Timothy 4:11.

The Apostle Peter had a co-worker whom he refers to as "my son Mark" (1Peter 5:13). Papias, an early second century writer, in describing the origins of the Gospels, tells us that Mark was the "interpreter" of Peter, and that he wrote down ("but not in order") the stories that he had heard Peter tell in his preaching about the life and teachings of Jesus.

The Gospel of Mark, in describing the arrest of Jesus (14:51), speaks of a young man who followed the arresting party, wearing only a linen cloth wrapped around his body, whom the arresting party tried to seize, but who left the cloth in their hands and fled naked. It is speculated that this young man was the writer himself, since the detail is hardly worth mentioning if he were not. Tradition also says that Mark was one of the servants who poured out the water that Jesus turned into wine at the marriage at Cana, and that it was his house in which Jesus appeared to the disciples in-hiding after His resurrection from the dead.

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Saint Mark baptizes Anianus

Saint Peter and Saint Mark went out to evangelize, and one night, Peter had a dream in which he was told to go, along with Mark, to Rome and to Alexandria. After preaching in Rome for a time, Mark went to Egypt and converted many to the Christian faith in the countryside; then leaving a small community of Christians there, he went to Alexandria. As soon as he entered the gates of the city, so the story goes, his sandal strap broke. He took it to a nearby shoemaker by the name of Anianus, who became his first convert in Alexandria. Mark soon discovered that he was being sought by his enemies, and so he appointed Anianus bishop, ordained three priests and seven deacons, and leaving them with orders to "serve and comfort the faithful brethren," he then left the city.


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Christians claiming the Dead Body of Saint Mark from the Pyre -
by TINTORETTO - from Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice


He returned years later to find the community he had left growing and thriving, but his enemies soon discovered him and threw him in prison. The next day, they threw a rope around his neck and dragged him over the ground until he died. But when they tried to burn the body, they found that it could not be harmed and scattered in fear. The Christians claimed the body from the pyre and buried it with reverence in the church they had built. Saint Mark is revered as the founder and first martyr of the Christian Church in Egypt.

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Evangelist Mark, the Lion - by DONATELLO,
from Old Sacristy, Church of San Lorenzo, Florence

Mark's symbol in art is a Lion, usually winged. In the book of Revelation, the visionary sees about the throne of God four winged creatures: a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle. It has customarily been supposed that these represent the four Gospels, or the four Evangelists (Gospel writers). One way of matching them is to say that the man stands for Matthew, whose narrative begins with the human genealogy of Jesus; that the lion stands for Mark, whose narrative begins with John the Baptist crying out in the desert (a lion roars in the desert); that the ox, a sacrificial animal, stands for Luke, whose narrative begins in the Temple; and that the eagle stands for John, whose narrative begins in Heaven, with the eternal Word. How old this correspondence is, is not known. An alternative assignment, which is far more recent, calls Matthew the lion (because he portrays Christ as the Messiah, the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy, "the lion of the tribe of Judah"); Mark the ox (because he portrays Christ the servant, constantly doing the work for which He was sent); Luke the man (because he portrays the humanity and compassion of Christ); and John the eagle (because he portrays Christ as the Eternal Word, Who came down from Heaven).

Saint Mark wrote the second Gospel, probably while in Rome, sometime before the year 60 A.D.; he wrote it in Greek for the Gentile converts to Christianity. Tradition tells us that Saint Mark was requested by the Romans to set down the teachings of Saint Peter. This seems to be confirmed by the position which Saint Peter has in this Gospel. In this way the second Gospel is a record of the life of Jesus as seen through the eyes of the Prince of the Apostles. The Roman and Greek Churches celebrate the Feast of Saint Mark on 25 April. He is the patron saint of notaries.


vela-c2.gif (2466 bytes)Almighty God, Who by the hand of Mark the evangelist hast given to Thy Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank Thee for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.