Saturday, April 25, 2009

Feast Day of Saint Mark, Evangelist

Although today, April 25, is the official feast day of Saint Mark, writer of the shortest of the Synoptic Gospels, we celebrated his day yesterday at the Friday Healing service with Father Acker at Victoria House, the weekday location of Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity. We started the celebration by praying the Collect for the feast day of Saint Mark, Evangelist:

O Almighty God, who hast instructed thy holy Church with the heavenly doctrine of thy Evangelist Saint Mark; Give us grace that, being not like children carried away with every blast of vain doctrine, we may be established in the truth of thy holy Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Scripture readings for this day of remembrance of Mark were interesting: for the Epistle reading, Ephesians 4:7-16, and for the Gospel, St. John 15:1-11.

After the Nicene Creed, Father Acker gave a short homily on Saint Mark, mostly for B's sake. He told us that Mark's Gospel was his favorite because Mark focused in on the heart of the Gospel; because Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels, Mark didn't mess around with extra details but got straight to the point. Father Acker also told us that Mark was probably present at Gethsemane since he told many details that were not in other Gospels, like the young man running away without his cloak, which some scholars think may have been Mark himself. Father Acker also related that Mark was probably 13 or 14 years old when Jesus was living, and that he most likely was among the group of disciples following Jesus in His earthly travels. Tradition tells us that Mark was the nephew of Barnabas, which also explains the rift between Paul and Barnabas concerning Mark, a rift that was healed between Mark and Paul, at least.

Here also is the Saint of the Day e-mail I received this morning, marking the Feast Day of Saint Mark, Evangelist:
Saint of the Day from
Most of what we know about Mark comes directly from the New Testament. He is usually identified with the Mark of Acts 12:12. (When Peter escaped from prison, he went to the home of Mark's mother.)

Paul and Barnabas took him along on the first missionary journey, but for some reason Mark returned alone to Jerusalem. It is evident, from Paul's refusal to let Mark accompany him on the second journey despite Barnabas's insistence, that Mark had displeased Paul. Later, Paul asks Mark to visit him in prison so we may assume the trouble did not last long.

The oldest and the shortest of the four Gospels, the Gospel of Mark emphasizes Jesus' rejection by humanity while being God's triumphant envoy. Probably written for Gentile converts in Rome—after the death of Peter and Paul sometime between A.D. 60 and 70—Mark's Gospel is the gradual manifestation of a "scandal": a crucified Messiah.

Evidently a friend of Mark (Peter called him "my son"), Peter is only one of the Gospel sources, others being the Church in Jerusalem (Jewish roots) and the Church at Antioch (largely Gentile).

Like one other Gospel writer, Luke, Mark was not one of the 12 apostles. We cannot be certain whether he knew Jesus personally. Some scholars feel that the evangelist is speaking of himself when describing the arrest of Jesus in Gethsemane: "Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked" (Mark 14:51-52).

Others hold Mark to be the first bishop of Alexandria, Egypt. Venice, famous for the Piazza San Marco, claims Mark as its patron saint; the large basilica there is believed to contain his remains.

A winged lion is Mark's symbol. The lion derives from Mark's description of John the Baptist as a "voice of one crying out in the desert" (Mark 1:3), which artists compared to a roaring lion. The wings come from the application of Ezekiel's vision of four winged creatures (Ezekiel, chapter one) to the evangelists.

Mark fulfilled in his life what every Christian is called to do: proclaim to all people the Good News that is the source of salvation. In particular, Mark's way was by writing. Others may proclaim the Good News by music, drama, poetry or by teaching children around a family table.

There is very little in Mark that is not in the other Gospels—only four passages. One is: “...This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come” (Mark 4:26-29).

So today we remember a Gospel writer, an Evangelist, who walked with Jesus as a teenager, who definitely made mistakes along the way (one mistake that led to a major disagreement in the early Church between Paul and Barnabas), and who transcribed God's Word to us. As Mark was faithful in evanglizing the world, may we also be faithful in spreading the Good News within our own sphere of influence.

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