My beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
On the 25th of April, Our Holy Orthodox Church commemorates the holy,
and Glorious Apostle MARK the Evangelist.
Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hyn, Third Tone
O holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark, intercede with the Merciful
God that He grant unto our souls forgiveness of offenses.
Kontakion Hymn. Second Tone
When thou hadst received the Spirit’s grace from Heaven’s
heights, thou rentest apart the webs of the philosophers; and
on catching all of the nations in thy net, O all-lauded Mark, thou
didst offer to thy Lord, by preaching the Gospel of divine renown.
The compilers of The Great Synaxaristes (in Greek) believe that Papias (A.D. 60-130), Bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia is the first one to connect the Gospel of Mark with Peter. The tradition recorded by him was universally accepted by those who came after him. Now there are few who believe that the divine Mark was not of Hebrew stock, but that he previously was an idolater from Cyrene of Pentapolis, which is near Libya. Thus, there are divergent views, some say that the Evangelist Mark is not John Mark, the son of the widow Mary, while others say he was the kinsman of Barnabas. Having come to the Faith of Christ through the Apostle Peter, he followed him to Rome. While there, at the prompting of Peter himself and at the request of the Christians living there, he wrote his Gospel in Greek, and it is second in order after Matthew’s. Afterward, traveling to Egypt, he preached the Gospel there and was the first to establish the Church of Alexandria. The idolaters, unable to bear his preaching, seized him, bound him with ropes, and dragged him through the streets until he was cut to pieces on rocks, and gave up his soul. It is said that he completed his life in martyrdom about the year A.D. 68. He is depicted in holy icons with a lion next to him, one of the living creatures mentioned by Ezekiel (1:10), and a symbol of Christ’s Royal Office, as Saint Irenaeus of Lyons writes.
MORE OF SAINT MARK’S LIFE ACCORDING TO THE
GREAT SYNAXARISTES OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH:
His ministry (diakonia) took place during the reign of Tiberius Caesar Augustus (A.D. 14-37) until the era of Nero (54-68).
There is some confusion surrounding the life and suffering of the Evangelist Mark on account of there being at least three with the name of the Apostle Mark mentioned in the Synaxariste.
Another subject that engages writers was how and where Saint Mark write his Gospel. Meletios writes that while Peter was preaching in Rome, the Romans were dissatisfied with only oral discourses. Upon requesting a written version for posterity, Saint Peter commissioned Mark who was greatly familiar not only with Saint Peter’s teachings but also with the language. Evsevios, the Church Historian writes of Saint Peter’s hearers that neither were they satisfied with hearing the word once only nor were they content with just the unwritten teaching of the divine Gospel. Therefore, with all sorts of entreaties, they besought Mark, a follower of the holy Apostle Peter, and the one whose Gospel is extant, that he would leave them a written monument of the doctrine which has been orally communicated to them. Nor did they cease until they had prevailed with the man, and thus, it brought about the occasion of the written Gospel which bears the name Mark.
"And they say that Peter, when he had learned through a revelation of the Spirit of that which had been done, was pleased with the zeal of the men, and thus, the work obtained the sanction of his authority for the purpose of being used in the churches."
In the divine office of the Saint, we chant: "Thou didst become a companion of Paul, and with him, thou didst pass through Macedonia; when thou didst come to Rome, thou didst become the pleasant disciple of Peter and was shown to be his interpreter." And, "Manifestly following Peter, O wise one, as his disciple thou didst give lasting form to the Gospel, receiving from him the light of theology and clearly proclaiming the coming of God in the flesh." "The preeminent Apostle Peter clearly led thee to spiritual truths and initiated tee into divine mysteries so as to write down the august Gospel."
The Great Synaxaristes (in Greek) places the Evangelist’s repose in the year A.D. 64. His holy relics are found in Alexandria. According to the vision of the Prophet Ezekiel there appeared to him "as it were, the likeness of FOUR LIVING CREATURES (Ez. 1:5)." Saint Jerome writes: "The four-faced creature that we met in the Apocalypse of Saint John (Rev. 4:6-8) and in the beginning of Ezekiel’s prophecy…has also special significance for the Gospels: MATTHEW is signified by the face of A MAN. LUKE with the face of AN OX, JOHN AN EAGLE, and MARK THE LION CRYING IN THE DESERT."
Mark, the holy Apostle, was the scion of Hebrew parentage. His lineage could be traced to the Tribe of Levi, the priestly caste. He lived at first in Jerusalem. Among the Jews, Mark was called John (that is, JOHANAN), his more commonly used name, Mark, was of Latin derivation. He joined this name to his Hebrew name later before departing to a foreign land, when he went with the Apostle Peter to preach the Gospel in Rome, then the Capital of the world.
According to a tradition accepted by the Orthodox Church, which is in agreement with the testimony of several ancient writers, he was one of the Seventy (70) Disciples of the Lord and, consequently, was himself an eyewitness to certain events in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. The book of the Acts of the Holy Apostles bears witness that the mother of the Evangelist Mark, Mary by name, owned a house in Jerusalem. It was there that the Apostle Peter found refuge after his miraculous deliverance from prison by the Angel [Acts 12:1-12]. After the Lord was taken up into the heavens, this house, during the persecution of the Christians, were able to gather together and worship. Thus, in the home of his mother, Saint Mark was able constantly to join in converse with Christians, taking part in their prayer meetings. He, at length, grew close to the holy Apostles themselves. He developed a particularly close relationship with the Apostle Peter, who showed him love and disposition which were truly paternal. This is apparent from Saint Peter’s own words. For, in his Epistle, he calls Mark his son and says: "She that is in Babylon, elect together with you, greeteth ou, and Mark my son [1 Peter 5:13].
Saint Mark was a cousin of the holy Apostle Barnabas, who was also, a Levite by descent [Acts 4:36], though the latter was born on the island of Cyprus. The holy Mark, through Barnabas, was introduced to the other preeminent Apostle. Saint Paul. This took place after Saint Paul’s wondrous conversion to the Christian Faith when the latter returned to Jerusalem. Having entered into a close relationship with these two preeminent Apostles Peter and Paul. Saint Mark became their closest co-worker and carried out their orders.
The holy Relics of Saint Mark
The unquenched wickedness of the heathen was not satisfied with the death of the holy Apostle. They, therefore, decided to consume his body with fire at a place called Angels. The blaze was already kindled and they were ready to burn to ashes his holy relics. Then, suddenly, by the Providence of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, there descended a furious storm, and driving rain, and heavy winds. The rays of the sun were cloaked. There was a dreadful clap of thunder. The rain fell until the evening, which resulted in submerged houses and many deaths. The heathen were so terrified that they scattered, leaving the holy relics. Some of the pagans began saying, by way of deceit and derision, "Our thrice-blessed Serapion wrought this, visiting this man fo his nativity.
Then pious men took up the holy relics of the Righteous man from the ashes and reverently buried them. The funeral was performed with prayers and psalmody. The internment took place in a hewed-out tomb of stone, in the place where they held their prayer services. Thus, the holy relics became the first heirloom acquired by the Alexandrian Church. In the year A.D. 310, a church was erected over the tomb of Saint Mark, and his holy relics remained in Alexandria until the 9th century. In 828 A.D. the holy relics of the holy Evangelist were transferred to Venice, near which he had for a time preached the Gospel. The head of Saint Mark remained in Egypt. At Venice, the holy relics are in the Basilica of Saint Marco which was erected in his honor. Saint Mark became the Patron Saint of Venice.
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere love in the Glorious and Divine Resurrection of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God