St. Mark the Evangelist
Apostle and First Bishop of Alexandria
St. Mark the Evangelist
His memory is celebrated on April 25th
St. Mark is mentioned some ten times in the New Testament. The Book of Acts tells us that he accompanied the apostles Paul and Barnabas (his older cousin) on their first missionary journey, but did not complete the journey and turned back alone at Perga. Paul later refused to take Mark with him on his second missionary journey. Instead, Mark went with Barnabas to continue the evangelization of the island of Cyprus. This breach with Paul was eventually healed and Mark was with him in Rome at the time of his execution. Mark is most famous for writing the Gospel that bears his name, an account of the life, teaching, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Probably written in Rome shortly after the execution of the apostles Peter and Paul, it was a vivid reminder to Christians, then suffering persecution for their faith under Nero, of the sufferings of Christ, their Master, and an inspiration to them to remain faithful to Him. Mark’s Gospel is the first and oldest of the four gospels that today constitute the heart of the New Testament and, in fact, forms the essential basis for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke as well. Of the 660 verses in Mark’s Gospel, 600 are to be found in Matthew’s Gospel and 350 in Luke’s Gospel and only 60 in neither. Compared to these two later Gospels, Mark’s is much shorter, more direct and informal and written in the simple Greek used throughout the Mediterranean world of his time. Traditionally, the writing of Mark’s Gospel has been associated with the witness of the apostle Peter and rooted in Mark’s relationship with him. At the closing of the First Letter of Peter the apostle speaks of “my son Mark” much as the apostle Paul wrote of Timothy in his letters. St. Irenaeus of Lyons, around 185AD, wrote that “after the deaths of Peter and Paul, Mark – the disciple and interpreter of Peter – handed down to us in writing those things that Peter had proclaimed.” The fourth century church historian, Eusebius of Caesarea, mentions that after leaving Rome, Mark went to the city of Alexandria in Egypt and became its first bishop, establishing the Patriarchate of Alexandria and bringing the faith of the Apostles to Africa. Like the apostles Peter and Paul, Mark was also to be executed for his Christian faith during the persecution of the emperor Trajan. Following the expansion of Islam into formerly Christian territories, his relics were eventually smuggled out of Alexandria and taken to Venice, where his body lies beneath the altar of St. Mark's Cathedral.