SAINT MARK

The Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is Written in the Prophets:

 

“Behold, I Send My Messenger before Your Face, who will Prepare Your Way before You.”
“The Voice of One crying in the Wilderness:

‘Prepare the Way of the Lord; Make His Paths Straight.’ ” ~ .::The Gospel of St. Mark 1:1-3::.

Saint Mark the Evangelist - One of the Seventy Apostles and the writer of One of the Four Gospels, was born in Libya three years after the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Saint Mark’s house was where the Lord met with His Disciples, and where He celebrated the Passover and Last Supper with them. The Apostles also gathered in his house when the Holy Spirit descended upon them on the day of Pentecost. The house of Saint Mark is therefore well known in all of Christendom as the First Holy Church in the world.

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When Saint Mark entered and walked through the streets of Alexandria in Egypt, he tore his sandals and wanted to have them fixed. He went to a local cobbler, Ananias. As he was fixing Saint Mark’s shoes, his finger was cut by the awl and he cried out saying “O the One God!” Saint Mark healed Ananias’ finger and then talked to him about who the “One God,” Jesus Christ. Ananias invited Saint Mark to his house and had his entire family Baptised. Others began to Believe as well, and Ananias’s house became the meeting place for the Faithful Christians.

In 62 AD, Saint Mark left Egypt to go to Pentapolis and visit the new believers there. He ordained Ananias as Bishop and founded a Church in the Crypt where the Holy Family had taken refuge when they were in Egypt during the time of persecution under King Herod’s time.

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When Saint Mark returned to Egypt after the Martyrdom of Saint’s Peter & Paul, he established and founded the Church that had grown in his absence. He ordained three priests and seven deacons to assist Ananias. Saint Mark continued to Preach against the local pagan gods, stirring the hatred of non-believers. In 68 AD, as Saint Mark was administering the Liturgy on Easter day, pagans were celebrating a feast for one of their gods. The pagans attacked the Church that Saint Mark was praying in, captured him, and dragged him in the streets of the city. He was thrown into a prison, where an angel appeared to him, strengthening him. The next day he was dragged through the streets again and eventually Martyred.

Saint Mark is the First Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, a chain of succession that has remained unbroken to this day. A Faith given by Christ - unchanged throughout the ages.

But by the end of the 2nd century, Christianity was well established in Egypt. By 190 AD, the Church of Alexandria had over forty dioceses under the Patriarch of Alexandria.

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St. Mark the Apostle & Evangelist

The Coptic Orthodox Church or the Church of Alexandria is called the "See of Saint Mark"; One of the earliest and Ancient Four Sees: Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome.

St. Mark - The Founder
The Copts are proud of the Apostolicity of their Church, whose founder is St. Mark; One of the Seventy Apostles (Mk 10:10), and One of the Four Evangelists. He is regarded by the Coptic hierarchy as the first of their unbroken 118 Patriarchs, and also the First of a stream of Egyptian Martyrs – Ancient and Present Day Age.

This Apostolicity was not only furnished on grounds of its foundation, but rather by the persistence and endurance of the Church in observing the same Faith received by the Apostle and His Successors, the Holy Fathers.

St. Mark's Bibliography
St. Mark was an African native of Jewish parents who belonged to the Levites' tribe. His family lived in Cyrenaica until they were attacked by some barbarians, and lost their property. Consequently, they moved to Jerusalem with their child John Mark (Acts 12:12, 25; 15:37). Apparently, he was given a good education and became conversant in both Greek and Latin in addition to Hebrew. His family was highly religious and in close relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. His cousin was St. Barnabas and his father's cousin was St. Peter. His mother, Mary, played an important part in the early days of the Church in Jerusalem. Her upper room became the first Christian church in the world where the Lord Jesus Christ Himself instituted the Holy Eucharist (Mk 14:12-26). Also, this is the same place where the Lord appeared to the disciples after His resurrection and His Holy Spirit came upon them.

Young Mark was always associated with the Lord, who chose Him as One of the Seventy. He is mentioned in the Holy Scriptures in a number of events related with the Lord. For example, he was present at the Wedding of Cana of Galilee, and was the man who had been carrying the jar when the two disciples went to prepare a place for the celebration of the Passover (Mark 14:13-14; Luke 22:11).

St. Mark & The Lion
The Voice of the Lion is the symbol of St. Mark for two reasons:

  1. He begins his Holy Gospel by describing John the Baptist as a Lion roaring in the desert (Mark 1:3).

  2. His famous story with the Lion, as related to us by Severus Ebn-El-Mokafa:

 

“Once a lion and lioness appeared to John Mark and his father Arostalis while they were traveling in Jordan. The father was very scared and begged his son to escape, while he awaited his fate. John Mark assured his father that Jesus Christ would save them and began to pray. The two beasts fell dead and as a result of this miracle, the father believed in Christ.”

Preaching with the Apostles
At first, St. Mark accompanied St. Peter on his missionary journeys inside Jerusalem and Judea. Then he accompanied St. Paul and St. Barnabas on their first missionary journey to Antioch, Cyprus and Asia Minor, but for some reason or another he left them and returned home (Acts 13:13). On their second trip, St. Paul refused to take him along because he left them on the previous mission; for this reason, St. Barnabas was separated from St. Paul and went to Cyprus with his cousin St. Mark (Acts 15:36-41). There, he departed in the Lord and St. Mark buried him. Afterwards, St. Paul needed St. Mark with him and they both preached in Colosse (Col 4:10), Rome (Phil 24; 2 Tim 4:11) and perhaps in Venice.

In Egypt & Africa
St. Mark's real labour lays in Africa. He left Rome to Pentapolis, where he was born. After planting the seeds of Faith and performing many miracles - he travelled to Egypt, through the Oasis, the desert of Libya, Upper Egypt and then entered Alexandria from its eastern gate in 61 A.D.

On his arrival, the strap of his sandal was loose. He went to a cobbler to mend it. When the cobbler - Ananias- took an awl to work on it, he accidentally pierced his hand and cried aloud "O One God". At this utterance, St. Mark rejoiced and after miraculously healing the man's wound, took courage and began to preach to the hungry ears of his convert. The spark was ignited and Ananias took the Apostle home with him. He and his family were baptized, and many others followed.

The spread of Christianity must have been quite remarkable because pagans were furious and fought St. Mark everywhere. Smelling the danger, the Apostle ordained a bishop (Ananias), three priests and seven deacons to look after the congregation if anything befell him. He left Alexandria to Berce, then to Rome, where he met St. Peter and St. Paul and remained there until their martyrdom in 64 A.D.

Upon returning to Alexandria in 65 AD, St. Mark found his people firm in faith and thus decided to visit Pentapolis. There, he spent two years preaching and performing miracles, ordaining bishops and priests, and winning more converts.

Finally he returned to Alexandria and was overjoyed to find that Christians had multiplied so much that they were able to build a considerable church in the suburban district of Baucalis.

Martyrdom
In the year 68 AD, Easter fell on the same day as the Serapis feast. The furious heathen mob had gathered in the Serapis temple at Alexandria and then descended on the Christians who were celebrating the Glorious Resurrection at Baucalis.

 

St. Mark was seized, dragged with a rope through the main streets of the city. Crowds were shouting "The ox must be led to Baucalis," a precipitous place full of rock where they fed the oxen that were used in the sacrifice to idols. At nightfall the saint was thrown into prison, where he was cheered by the vision of an angel, strengthening him saying, "Now Your Hour Has Come O Mark, the Good Minister, to Receive Your Recompense. Be Encouraged, for Your Name has been Written in the Book of Life."

 

When the angel disappeared, St. Mark thanked GOD for sending His angel to comfort him. Suddenly, the Savior Himself appeared and said to him, "Peace Be to You Mark, My Disciple and Evangelist!" St. Mark started to shout, "O My Lord Jesus Christ" but the vision disappeared.

On the following morning during the procession of Serapis - he was again dragged around the city till death. His bloody flesh was torn, and it was their intention to cremate his remains, but GOD did not wish this - the winds howled and blew and the stormy rain fell in torrents and the populace dispersed in fear. Christians & Clergy took away his sacred body, honoured him and prayed over his body and secretly buried him in a grave that they had engraved on a rock under the Holy Altar of the Church.

Apostolic Acts

St. Mark was a Holy Apostle, Disciple and Servant of the Lord. His ministry and mission was fruitful as the other Saintly Apostles - He passed to Us the Holy Faith and Kept it – and gave it to generations to come.

Saint Mark’s Apostolic Acts included:

  1. Evangelised & Preached in Egypt, Pentapolis, Judea, Asia Minor, and Rome during which time he ordained and consecrated Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.

  2. Establishing One of the Four Holy Churches (Sees) of Christendom – The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.

  3. Establishing the "School of Alexandria" which taught & defended all of Christianity against the philosophical & heretical attacks to change and subvert the Holy Faith – that which was given from Our Lord Jesus Christ. The School of Alexandria went on to produce a Great Many Ascetics, Monastics, Hermits, Holy Fathers and Saints.

  4. Wrote the Divine Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist which was later added to by St. Cyril the Great – Pillar of Faith.

  5. Wrote the Second Gospel (One of the Four Holy Gospels) as inspired by the Holy Spirit – Gospel of Saint Mark.