Friday, April 25, 2014

St. Mark

Happy Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist!

St. Mark was the writer of the second Gospel in the New Testament (sometimes called John Mark, which just confuses me).  He is the son of Mary of Jerusalem, who was also highly esteemed in the early church and who's house served as a meeting place for Christians.  Mark was a cousin of St. Barnabas and accompanied he and St. Paul on their missionary journeys through Antioch and Cypress.  Tradition states that Mark was the first bishop of Alexandria, Egypt and is possibly the "John Mark" in Acts 12:25.  He is sometimes called "the Interpreter of Peter" by those of his time.  He wrote his Gospel in Greek for the Gentile converts to Christianity.  Tradition states that Mark was asked by the Romans to put St. Peter's accounts of the life of Christ into a Gospel, which is why his Gospel is a record of the life of Jesus seen through the eyes of the Prince of the Apostles.  It's a record of what he heard from Peter.  He died as a martyr in Alexandria, Egypt and his relics were sent to Venice, Italy, where they were enshrined in a cathedral dedicated to his honor.  Side note: according to Venetian tradition, when St. Mark was traveling through Europe, he arrived at a lagoon in Venice, where an angel appeared to him and said "May peace be with you, Mark, my evangelist.  Here your body will rest." This was used as an excuse by those who stole his remains from Alexandria and moved them to Venice.His symbol is the winged lion.

Why the winged lion, not because it's important, but just because I want to know?  The winged lion was the symbol of the city of Venice (formerly the Republic of Venice).  The lion also symbolizes the power of Mark's word, but also majesty.  The wings symbolize spiritual elevation.  The halo is traditional of holiness or religious piety.  The book expresses wisdom and peace.

What does St. Mark tell us?  What is his example that we can use today?  Honestly, I had to do some more looking.  He's the writer of a Gospel--read it if you haven't, if you have...well, read it again.  The Gospel according to St. Mark is a wonderful account of the life of Jesus.  But beyond being a teacher of the faith, which we should all aspire to be, what else is there.  Finally I found it.  Every other account I read glossed over it, but his martyrdom is what I feel I should look at.  It tells of his favor with Christ and his strength of faith.  As I have said numerous times before, I don't know if I could be that strong in the same circumstances.  I pray that I would be.  But honestly, my first thought in reading the horrid things that have been done to our Christian martyrs (which I know in some areas of the world are still going on), is how could they withstand that torture and still come out with their faith in tact?  Below is a quick account of what happened.  I'm sure it doesn't do honor to his life as it should, but it does tell the story:

On Easter in 68 A.D., while acting as the bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, he was taken while saying the Mass.  They tied a rope around his neck and dragged him through the city as an animal to slaughter.  The rocky road cut through his body and blood stained the road.  An Angel of the Lord consoled him in prison and even Our Lord came to him and said: "Peace be with you, O Mark, My Disciple and My Evangelist.  Fear nothing because I am near you."  The following day the pagan priests once again tied a rope around his neck and drug him through the streets.  This time he died saying "Into Thy hands I commend my spirit."    Thunder and lightening erupted through the sky and the air was turbulent.  Those who had killed him planned on burning his body, but fled at this, which is why his remains were able to be collected.

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