Monday, April 17, 2006
Saint Mark, the Apostle ,The Evangelist of the Land of Egypt.
I was going to wait until after our Coptic brothers and sister celebrated Easter to begin doing posts on the saints of their faith, but I thought I would do St. Mark early.
St. Mark is considered a saint by all of the great Christian faiths. But for most Catholics their knowledge ends at the fact that he is a great evangelist who wrote a Gospel. This alone would be enough to make St. Mark one of the greatest of our examples, but there is much more.
Sacred tradition and the knowledge of the early church fathers tells us that St. Mark was one of the seventy apostles mentioned in Luke 10:1-20.
He is also mentioned in Acts of the Apostles: "He came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying" (Acts 12:12)
This is also the house where St. Peter seeks shelter after being set free from prison by an angel (Acts 12:7-12)
Sacred tradition also tells of something that is very special. It is the house of St. Mark's mother that Jesus is speaking of when He says:
"Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, The Teacher says, My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples" (Matthew 26:18)
It is in the house of St. Mark that the Lord celebrates His Last Supper. It is the first Christian church. It is the site of the appearance of the Risen Christ to His friends and of Pentecost.
We also know that:
His father's name was Aristopolus and his mother's name was Mary. They were Jewish in faith, rich and of great honor. They educated him with the Greek and Hebrew cultures. He was called Mark after they emigrated to Jerusalem, where St. Peter had become a disciple to the Lord Christ. St. Peter was married to the cousin of Aristopolus. Mark visited St. Peter's house often, and from him he learned the Christian teachings.
St. Peter and St. Mark are family. We are all One Body in Christ, but there is also an ancient family connection, despite our differences, between the Catholic and Coptic believers.
St. Mark was active in spreading the Gospel of Christ. The story of Mark is told from the Coptic Synaxarium (Lives of The Saints)(link):
Once Aristopolus and his son Mark were walking near the Jordan river, close by the desert, they encountered a raving lion and a lioness. It was evident to Aristopolus that it would be his end and the end of his Son, Mark. His compassion for his son compelled him to order him to escape to save himself. Mark answered, "Christ, in whose hands our lives are committed, will not let them prey on us." Saying this, he prayed, "O, Christ, Son of God protect us from the evil of these two beasts and terminate their offspring from this wilderness." Immediately, God granted this prayer, and the two beasts fell dead. His father marvelled and asked his son to tell him about the Lord Christ. He believed in the Lord Christ at the hands of his son who baptized him.
After the ascension of the Lord Christ, he accompanied Paul and Barnabas to preach the Gospel in Antioch, Seleucia, Cyprus, Salamis, and Perga Pamphylia where he left them and returned to Jerusalem. After the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem, he went with Barnabas to Cyprus.
After the departure of Barnabas, with the order of the Lord Christ, St. Mark went to Afrikia, Berka, and the Five Western cities. He preached the Gospel in these parts, and believed on his hands most of its people. From there, he went to Alexandria in the 1st. of Bashans 61 A.D.
When he entered the city, his shoe was torn because of the much walking in preaching and evangelism. He went to a cobbler in the city, called Anianus, to repair it. While he was repairing it the awl pierced his finger. Anianus shouted in Greek saying "EIS THEOS" which means "O, ONE GOD". When St. Mark heard these words his heart rejoiced exceedingly. He found it suitable to talk to him about the One God. The Apostle took some clay, spat on it and applied it to Anianus' finger, saying in the Name of Jesus Christ the Son of God, and the wound healed immediately, as if nothing happened to it.Moses, who brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, and gave them the Law, the captivity of the children of Israel to Babylon, and the prophecies that foretold the coming of Christ.
Anianus invited him to go to his house and brought to him his children. The Saint preached and baptized them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
When the believers in the Name of Christ increased and the pagan people of the city heard that, they were raged with anger and thought of slaying St. Mark. The faithful advised him to get away for a short while for the sake of the safety of the church and its care. St. Mark ordained St. Anianus a Bishop for Alexandria, three priests and seven deacons. He went to the Five Western Cities, remained there for two years preaching, and ordained bishops, priests, and deacons.
He returned to Alexandria where he found the believers had increased in number, and built a church for them in the place known as Bokalia (The place of cows), east of Alexandria on the sea shore.
It came to pass, when he was celebrating the feast of the Resurrection on the 29th day of Baramudah, year 68 A.D., the same day coincided with the great pagan Celebration for the feast of the god Syrabis, a multitude of them assembled and attacked the church at Bokalia and forced their way in. They seized St. Mark, bound him with a thick rope and dragged him in the roads and streets crying, "Drag the dragon to the place of Cows." They continued dragging him with severe cruelty. His flesh was torn and scattered everywhere, and the ground of the city was covered with his blood. They cast him that night into a dark prison.
The angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him: "O Mark, the good servant, rejoice for your name has been written in the book of life, and you have been counted among the congregation of the saints." The angel disappeared, then the Lord Christ appeared to him, and gave him peace. His soul rejoiced and was glad.
The next morning (30th of Baramudah), the pagans took St. Mark from the prison. They tied his neck with a thick rope and did the same as the day before, dragging him over the rocks and stones. Finally, St. Mark delivered up his pure soul in the hand of God, and received the crown of martyrdom, the apostolic crown, the crown of evangelism, and the crown of virginity.
Nevertheless, St. Mark's death did not satisfy the rage of the pagans and their hatred. They gathered much firewood and prepared an inferno to burn him. A severe storm blew and heavy rains fell. The pagans became frightened, and they fled away in fear.
The believers came and took the holy body, carried it to the church they built at Bokalia, wrapped it up, prayed over him and place it in a coffin.
Lord, let us remember Your friend and servant the great St. Mark. May his example guide Your children in Egypt as they suffer for the Love of You. Let us remember that He and St. Peter were family. May our two faiths, despite where we disagree, be as a family and love and defend each other. As the house of St. Mark sheltered St. Peter and the land of Egypt sheltered You, may all Catholics open their eyes and raise their voices to let the world know of the suffering of Your faithful children in Egypt. Even more, may we remember that we are One Body in Christ the Lord, and that You will always lead us to do Your will.
St. Mark from the Coptic Synaxarium (link)
St. Mark from the Catholic Encyclopedia (link)
St. Mark (link)