April 25, 2017: ST. MARK, EVANGELIST
April 25, 2017: ST. MARK, EVANGELIST
Rank: Double of the II Class.
“Thou, O Mark, art the mystic Lion, which, with the Man, the Ox and the Eagle, art yoked to the chariot whereon the King of kings pursues his triumphant course through the earth. Ezechiel, the Prophet of the Ancient Testament, and John, the Prophet of the New Law, saw thee standing nigh the Throne of Jehovah. How magnificent is thy glory! Thou art the historian of the Word made Flesh, and thou publishest to all generations his claims to the love and adoration of mankind. The Church reveres thy writings, and bids us receive them as inspired by the Holy Ghost.”
The Cycle of holy mother Church brings before us to-day, the Lion, who, together with the Man, the Ox and the Eagle, stands before the Throne of God. (Ezechiel, i. 10) It was on this day, that Mark ascended from earth to heaven, radiant with his triple aureola of Evangelist, Apostle, and Martyr.
As the preaching made to Israel had its four great representatives,—Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, and Daniel; so, likewise, would God have the New Covenant to be embodied in the four Gospels, which were to make known to the world the Life and teachings of his divine Son. The Holy Fathers tell us, that the Gospels are like the four streams which watered the Garden of pleasure, (Gen, ii. 10) and that this Garden was a figure of the future Church. The first of the Evangelists,—the first to register the actions and words of our Redeemer,—is Matthew, whose star will rise in September; the second is Mark, whose brightness gladdens us to-day ; the third is Luke, whose rays will shine upon us in October; the fourth is John, whom we have already seen in Bethlehem, at the Crib of our Emmanuel.
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 wished 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. Mark follows the account given by Matthew; he abridges it, and yet he occasionally adds a word, or an incident, which plainly prove to us that Peter, who had seen and heard all, was his living and venerated authority. One would have almost expected, that the new Evangelist would pass over in silence the history of his master's fall, or, at least, have said as little as possible about it; but no,—the Gospel written by Mark is more detailed on Peter's denial than is that of Matthew; and as we read it, we cannot help feeling, that the tears, elicited by Jesus’ look, when in the house of Caiphas, were flowing down the Apostle's cheeks, as he described the sad event. Mark's work being finished, Peter examined it and gave it his sanction; the several Churches joyfully received this second account of the mysteries of the world's redemption, and the name of Mark was made known throughout the whole earth.
Matthew begins his Gospel with the human genealogy of the Son of God, and has thus realised the prophetic type of the Man; Mark fulfils that of the Lion, for he commences with the preaching of John the Baptist, whose office as precursor of the Messias, had been foretold by Isaias, where he spoke of the Voice of one crying in the wilderness,—as the Lion that makes the desert echo with his roar.
Mark having written his Gospel, was next to labour as an Apostle. Peter sent him, first, to Aquileia, where he founded an important Church: but this was not enough for an Evangelist. When the time designed by God came, and Egypt,—the source of countless errors,—was to receive the truth, and the haughty and noisy Alexandria was to be raised to the dignity of the second Church of Christendom,—the second See of Peter,—Mark was sent by his master to effect this great work. By his preaching, the word of salvation took root, grew up, and produced fruit in that most infidel of nations; and the authority of Peter was thus marked, though in different degrees, in the three great Cities of the Empire: Rome, Alexandria and Antioch.
St. Mark may be called the first founder of the Monastic life, by his instituting, in Alexandria itself, what were called the Therapeutes. To him, also, may be justly attributed, the origin of that celebrated Christian school, of Alexandria, which was so flourishing, even in the 2nd Century.
But glorious as were these works of Peter's disciple,—the Evangelist and Apostle Mark was also to receive the dignity of Martyr. The success of his preaching excited against him the fury of the idolators. They were keeping a feast in honour of Serapis; and this gave them an opportunity which they were not likely to lose. They seized Mark, treated him most cruelly, and cast him into prison. It was there that our Risen Lord appeared to him, during the night, and addressed him in these words, which afterwards formed the Arms of the Republic of Venice: “Peace be to thee, Mark, my Evangelist!” To which the disciple answered: “Lord”—for such were his feelings of delight and gratitude, that he could say but that one word, as it was with Magdalene, when she saw Jesus on the morning of the Resurrection. On the following day, Mark was put to death by the pagans. He had fulfilled his mission on earth, and heaven opened to receive the Lion, who was to occupy near the throne of the Ancient of days the place allotted to him, as shown to the Prophet of Patmos, in his sublime vision. (Apoc, iv.)
In the 9th Century, the West was enriched with the Relics of St. Mark. They were taken to Venice; and, under the protection of the sacred Lion, there began for that City a long period of glory. Faith in so great a Patron achieved wonders; and from the midst of islets and lagoons there sprang into existence a City of beauty and power. Byzantine Art raised up the imposing and gorgeous Church, which was the palladium of the Queen of the Seas; and the new Republic stamped its coinage with the Lion of St. Mark. Happy would it have been for Venice, had she persevered in her loyalty to Rome, and in the ancient severity of her morals!
O God, who didst raise blessed Mark, thy Evangelist to the honourable commission of preaching thy Gospel; grant, we beseech thee, we may ever receive benefit from his instructions, and be defended by his prayers. Through, thy Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, World without end. Amen.
Thou, O Mark, art the mystic Lion, which, with the Man, the Ox and the Eagle, art yoked to the chariot whereon the King of kings pursues his triumphant course through the earth. Ezechiel, the Prophet of the Ancient Testament, and John, the Prophet of the New Law, saw thee standing nigh the Throne of Jehovah. How magnificent is thy glory! Thou art the historian of the Word made Flesh, and thou publishest to all generations his claims to the love and adoration of mankind. The Church reveres thy writings, and bids us receive them as inspired by the Holy Ghost.
It was thou that, on the glad Day of Easter, announcedst to us the Resurrection of our Lord: pray for us, O holy Evangelist, that this divine Mystery may work its effects within us; and that our hearts, like thine own, may be firm in their love of our Risen Jesus, that so we may faithfully follow him in that New Life, which he gave us by his Resurrection. Ask him to give us his Peace, as he did to his Apostles when he showed himself to them in the Cenacle, and as he did to thyself when he appeared to thee in thy prison.
Thou wast the beloved disciple of Peter; Rome was honoured by thy presence: pray for the successor of Peter, thy master; pray for the Church of Rome, against which the wildest storm is now venting its fury. Pray to the Lion of the Tribe of Juda: he seems to sleep; and yet we know that he has but to show himself, and the victory is gained.
Apostle of Egypt! what has become of thy flourishing Church of Alexandria, Peter's second See, the hallowed scene of thy Martyrdom? Its very ruins have perished. The scorching blast of heresy made Egypt a waste, and God, in his anger, let loose upon her the torrent of Mahometanism. Centuries have passed since then, and she is still a slave to error and tyranny:—is it to be thus with her till the coming of the Judge? May we not hope that the great movement now preparing may be the dawn of her conversion? Pray, we beseech thee, for the countries thou didst so zealously evangelise, but whose deserts are now the image of her loss of Faith.
And can Venice be forgotten by thee, O thou her dearest Patron? Her glory is fallen, it may be for ever; but her people still call themselves thine, as did the Venetians of old. Let her not swerve from the Faith; bless her with prosperity; obtain for her that she may be purified by her trials, and return to the God who has chastised her in his justice. A nation that is loyal to the Church must prosper: let, then, Venice return to her former fidelity to (the Bishop of) Rome, and reject the evil counsels that are now proposed to her; and who knows but that the Sovereign Ruler of the world, being appeased by thy powerful intercession, may make thy Venice what she was before she rebelled against the Holy See, and tarnished the glories she won at Lepanto!
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - The Paschal Time, Vol. II, Dublin, Edition 1871.
Pray for us, St. Mark, Apostle, Evangelist, & Martyr;
that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.