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April 25 Saint of the Day – Mark the Evangelist

On this date in 1983, spacecraft Pioneer 10 traveled beyond Pluto’s orbit. Pluto, still a planet at that point and not yet the bitter dwarf it is now, waved pleasantly as it flew by.

Mark the EvangelistThe Apostle and Evangelist Mark of the Seventy (d. ca. 68, maybe) wrote the first of the four Gospels in the New Testament and the liturgy that is still the main worship service of the Coptic Church. He is traditionally equated with the “John Mark” of Acts and the cousin of Barnabas mentioned in Colossians and Philemon, although not by Eusebius, who sees three Marks where others see one. We will not make cheap jokes about mind-altering substances.

According to tradition, Mark was born in Cyrene, Pentapolis, northern Africa, and his parents Aristopolus and Mary moved to Jerusalem to avoid being sword chow for the Berbers. His father died when he was still young, and he was adopted (as it were) by Peter, who was related to Aristopolus by marriage. Unless by “tradition” you mean the tradition by which he was born in Jerusalem, and after our Lord’s ascension catechized and baptized his father after slaying two lions on one of their father-son constitutionals. All traditions agree that he was well-educated both in Jewish Law and the Greek classics (and maybe Latin), as paid for by either his wealthy parents or Simon Peter the fisherman. It was in his mother’s home that the Last Supper was held, and many equate him with the young man who ran away naked from the Garden of Gethsemane when our Lord was taken captive. He was a traveling companion of both Peter and Paul before turning to his own paths.

Mark is honored as the founder of the Coptic Church, and the first to preach the Gospel in Alexandria. When he arrived there, it is said, he went to a cobbler’s shop to have his sandal repaired. The cobbler, Anianos by name, was clumsy but monotheistic, for when he slipped and awled his hand, he cried, “O One God!” which as oaths go is pretty darned theological, I’m sure you’ll agree. Mark took this as a sign that the city was ready to hear the Gospel, and after miraculously healing the man’s hand, he evangelized him, and the whole Anianos family was baptized that very night. As the church there grew, the pagans started to get a little hot under the collar (which is easy to do in Alexandria in the summer months). When they started asking for him by name at the post office, he decided to clear out for a spell and let things settle down. He ordained a bishop (Anianos of course) as well as some priests and deacons, and lit out for Rome, where he stayed just long enough to watch Peter and Paul get martyred. After that he moved back to Alexandria to find that things were going swimmingly, and they had even built a small basilica in the burbs.

Easter in 68 fell on the same day as the feast of Serapis, the god of Mexican shawls, and when the pagan revelers spilled into the streets, they nabbed Mark and dragged him through the city by a rope. “Lead the ox to Baucalis!” the people cried, referring to a place where oxen were led just before being sacrificed to Serapis. When they got there it was late, though, so Mark was thrown in prison. There an angel appeared to him, comforting him and telling him his time was at hand. “Thank y—” he began, but the angel disappeared. “Thank you, O Lord, for sending—” he began again, but Christ himself appeared, telling him, “Peace be to you, Mark!” and calling him disciple and evangelist, which he was. “Oh my Lord J—” he began, but the vision was gone.

The next day the Serapists dragged him around the city until he was dead. They were going to cremate him, but a fierce storm blew up and they all ran for cover, allowing the Christians to gather his body and bury it properly, if not permanently. Most of it now resides in Venice, although his head is in Alexandria, and another bit of him is in Cairo.

Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.

Mark the Evangelist (detail)Bibliography
April 25 (Wikipedia)
Pluto (Wikipedia)
St. Mark the Apostle, the Founder of the Coptic Church (Coptic Diocese) – Main source
St. Mark The Apostle, Evangelist (Coptics)
Apostle Mark the Evangelist of the Seventy (OCA)
Apostle Mark (Orthodox Wiki)
Mark the Evangelist (Wikipedia)


About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

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