Monday, April 28, 2014

The Feast of St. Mark

What do you know about St. Mark?  Even though, Mark is my husband's middle name, and therefore, one of his patrons, until I did some research this afternoon, I knew very little.  Even though St. Mark is one of the four Evangelists, he seems somehow to hide in the shadows of the Bible.  He's just a little bit anonymous, in other words:  he's not like St. Matthew, unversally known for being the Jewish tax collector; he's not St. Luke, the physican, who learned the tales of the Bible through the lips of the Mother of God; he's not St. John, the beloved Apostle, who survived being boiled in oil...  So who is St. Mark?

Abbot Gueranger says in the Liturgical Year:

Mark was the beloved disciple of Peter; he was the brilliant satellite of the sun of the Church.  He wrote his Gospel at Rome, under the eyes of the Prince of the Apostles.  The Church was already in possession of the history given by Matthew; but the faithful of Rome whished their own Apostle to narrate what he had witnessed.  Peter refused to write it himself, but he bade his disciple take up his pen, and the Holy Ghost guided the hand of the new Evangelist.

Yes.  But what do we know about the man?

After looking around (and around and around), I've found that we do have one or two facts -- and a lot of guessing -- about St. Mark.  He was believed to have been born in Jerusalem and was the cousin of Barnabus, the disciple of St. Paul.  He is reported to have been a Jewish priest and a learned man,  and it is traditionally believed that he was a married man when he became a Christian.  St. Mark's mother,  (another) Mary, seems to have been one of the faithful women of the early Church; it was to her home that St. Peter apparently fled after his release from prison (Acts 12:12-13). 

  We don't really know for sure, but there are many traditions explaining how St. Mark entered into the service of the Apostles. Of course it could have been through the instigation of his mother that he became a Christian and met the Apostles, but there are other ideas floating around out there, as well. One account supposes that it may have been Mark who carried water to Jesus and the Twelve at the Last Supper and there is speculation that Mark was one of the servants at the Marriage at Cana who poured out the water that Jesus turned to wine (John 2:1-11).  In addition to these conjectures, it is thought that St. Mark was referring to himself when he told about the young man who ran away naked when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:51-52), and the Coptic Church believes it was St. Mark who hid the disciples in his house after the crucifixion, into whose house Jesus came after the Resurrection (John 20), and into whose house the disciples received the Holy Ghost at Pentecost -- and that Mark may have been one of the Seventy Apostles sent out by Jesus (Luke 10:1).  But all of this is speculation.  What we do know for sure is that St. Mark, though not counted as one of the twelve Apostles, became a trusted ally and helper of the first pope, so trusted that St. Peter gave him the job of writing his account of the life of Christ.

But St. Mark did more than just write.  After the Gospel was finished,  St. Peter continued to make good use of his faithful friend, sending him to Aquileia (an ancient Roman city at the head of the Adriatic Sea), then to Egypt -- namely Alexandria -- and Antioch.  In Alexandria, St. Mark  founded one of the first Christian schools and instituted what has been called the first seed of monastic life in his Therapeutes.  It was in Alexandria that the success of St. Mark's preaching resulted in his martyrdom. He was dragged to his death by a rope tied around his neck in the year 68 AD, after some thirty-five years laboring for the Church. 

The Greater Litanies Procession is also on this day. 

Here is the post from last year about this traditional recitation of these powerful intercessory prayers.  And here are pictures of the blessing of the farm, along with the text of some of the traditional blessing prayers.
(Tho I looked almost everywhere in cyberspace, all info here was gleaned from The Catholic Encyclopedia and The Liturgical Year, with a couple of the speculations about his meeting the Apostles gleaned from Wikipedia and a Coptic Church site.  Oh, and the drawing above is "The Head of St. Mark" by Albrecht Durer )

For my husband, from St. Mark, on his Name Day, four days before our 27th anniversary. :)

** Repost from 2010.

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