St. Mark the Evangelist

October 7

For knowledge of the personal history of St. Mark, the writer of the second Gospel, we are dependent more or less upon conjecture.Tradition has it that he is identical with the "John surnamed Mark" of Acts 12:12 and 25, and that the Mary whose house in Jerusalem was a kind of rendezvous for the Apostles was consequently his mother. From Col. 4:10 we learn that Mark was a kinsman of St. Barnabas who, as stated in Acts 4:36, was a Levite and a Cypriot, and from this it is not unlikely that St. Mark was of a levitical family himself. When Paul and Barnabas returned to Antioch, after leaving in Jerusalem the alms they had brought, they took John surnamed Mark with them, and in their apostolic mission at Salamis in Cyprus, Mark helped them in their ministry [Acts 13:5], but when they were at Perga in Pamphylia he left and returned to Jerusalem [Acts 13:13]. When Paul was undergoing his first captivity in Rome, Mark was with him and a help to him [Col. 4:10]. Also in his second Roman captivity, shortly before his Martyrdom, St. Paul writes to Timothy, then at Ephesus, enjoining him to "take Mark and bring him with thee, for he is profitable to me for the ministry."

What is certain is that St. Peter, writing from Rome [1 Peter 5:13], speaks of "my son Mark" who apparently was there with him. We can hardly doubt that this was the evangelist, and there is at any rate nothing which conclusively shows that this young man is a different person from the "John surnamed Mark" of the Acts.

That St. Mark lived for some years in Alexandria and became bishop of that see is an ancient tradition, though his connection with their native city is not mentioned either by Clement of Alexandria or by Origen. Eusebius, however, records it, and so also does the ancient Latin preface to the vulgate of St. Mark's Gospel.

The city of Venice claims to possess the body of St. Mark which is supposed to have been brought there from Alexandria early in the ninth century. The authenticity of the remains preserved for so many hundred years has not passed unquestioned, and in any case it may be doubted whether the percolation of water, which for long periods rendered the subterranean confessio where they repose quite inaccessible, has not wrought irreparable damage to the frail contents of the shrine. It is certain, however, that St. Mark has been honored from time immemorial as principal patron of the city. St. Mark's emblem, the lion, like the emblems of the other evangelists, is of very ancient date. Already in the time of St. Augustine and St. Jerome, "the four living creatures" of Apoc. 4:-8 were held to be typical of the evangelists, and these holy doctors were reduced to tracing a connection between St. Mark and his lion by the consideration that St. Mark's Gospel begins with a mention of the desert and that the lion is lord of the desert.

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