St. Mark, the Evangelist
Introduction to the Coptic Orthodox Church, by Fr. Tadros Malaty, pp. 16-19
The Story of the Copts, paragraphs 1-8
30 Paramoude (May 8): Martyrdom of St. Mark
30 Paapi (November 9): The consecration of the Church of St. Mark and the appearance of his head
The story of St. Mark; his sandal and St. Ananias
The founder of the Church of Alexandria
Preaching the Gospel of God: Evangelism
The need to preach the Gospel of God
How to preach the Gospel of God:
Receive from God so you can give
Learn so you can teach
Take no money & no provisions; God will take care of you.
Your first house is the Church.
What to preach? Men should repent.
The role of miracles in evangelism
Discuss these 4 points in line with St. Mark’s evangelism in Alexandria.
“Give thanks to the Lord. Call upon His Name; make known His deeds among the people.” Psalm 105:1
(Abbreviated Story for Kids)
The Story of Our First Pope
St. Mark’s early life
His family’s home was robbed & spoiled by nomad tribes in Cyrene.
His family migrated to Jerusalem; Mark came in contact with Jesus Christ.
He became one of the 70 disciples chosen by Christ to evangelize.
In his family’s house, the Lord’s Supper took place, the Apostles met after the crucifixion, and the Holy Spirit descended on the day of Pentecost.
The first people of our Church
St. Mark arrives at the great city of Alexandria to evangelize.
He goes to a cobbler’s shop to fix his sandal’s strap.
He heals the cobbler’s finger with clay and preaches him about Christ.
The cobbler, Ananias, and his family become the first Coptic Christians.
Other families are attracted to Christianity because of their behavior.
St. Mark’s Martyrdom
Alexandria’s authorities become alarmed.
The Coptic Church increases very fast with new converts; the city officials are upset because many people stop worshipping their idols.
St. Mark needs to leave Egypt until anger subsides; he ordains Ananias as Bishop with 3 priests & 7 deacons.
St. Mark returns to Egypt after 2 years to find the church much bigger in number than before! Why?
St. Mark is crowned in heaven with 3 crowns.
He was dragged by an idol-worshipping mob all over the city of Alexandria, after Easter Liturgy, and then put in prison by city officials.
Christ appeared to him in prison, encouraged him, and gave him strength.
The following day, he was dragged again by the mob until his head separated.
St. Mark wins a crown for discipleship, a crown for evangelism, and a crown for martyrdom.
ST. MARK'S BIBLIOGRAPHY
By Fr. Tadros Malaty, from his book “Introduction to the Coptic Orthodox Church”
St. Mark was an African native of Jewish parents who belonged to the Levite 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. 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 himself instituted the Holy Eucharist (Mark 14:12-26). There also 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 Scriptures in a number of events related with the Lord; he was present at the wedding in 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 Pasch (Mark 14:13, 14; Luke 22:11). He was also the same man who fled naked before the Crucifixion (Mark 14:51, 52). Accordingly, the Church insists on calling St. Mark "Theorimos," i.e. the beholder of the Lord, in order to prevent counterfeits by some historians.
ST. MARK AND THE LION
The lion is the symbol of St. Mark for two reasons:
PREACHING WITH THE APOSTLES
He begins his Gospel by describing John the Baptist as a lion roaring in the desert (Mark 1:3).
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 frightened and begged his son to escape, while he awaited his fate. John Mark assured his father that Jesus Christ would save them, and he began to pray. The two beasts fell dead, and as a result of this miracle, the father believed in Christ and died shortly thereafter.
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 reasons St. Barnabas was separated from St. Paul and went to Cyprus with his cousin Mark (Acts 15:36-41). There, he departed in the Lord, and St. Mark buried him. Afterwards, St. Paul needed St. Mark, and they both preached in Colosy (4:11), Rome (Phil. 24; 2 Tim. 4:11) and perhaps Venice.
St. Mark's real labor was in Africa. He left Rome to go to Pentapolis, where he was born. After planting the seeds of faith and performing many miracles, he traveled 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 worn out loose. He went to a cobbler to mend it. When the cobbler, named 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, he took courage and began to preach to the hungry ears of his first 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 sought St. Mark everywhere. Sensing the danger, the Apostle ordained a bishop (Ananias), three priests and seven deacons to look after the congregation, in case 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 A.D, 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 & 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.
In the year 68 A.D, Easter fell on the same day as the idol Serapis’ feast. The furious heathen mob gathered in the Serapis temple at Alexandria and then descended on the Christians who were celebrating Easter (Christian Pasch) at Baucalis. St. Mark was seized and 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 rocks where they fed the oxen that were used in the sacrifices to idols. At nightfall, the saint was thrown in prison, where he was cheered by the vision of an angel, strengthening him and 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 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," but the vision disappeared!
On the following morning, probably during the triumphal 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 the wind blew, the rain fell in torrents and the populace dispersed. Christians secretly took his body and buried him in a grave which they had dug in a rock under the altar of the church.
During the schism which started between the Copts and the Melkites, the first kept the head while the body remained with the latter. On 644 A.D, a soldier sneaked into the church where the head was buried. He took it away to his ship under the impression that it was a treasure. Later, when Amro-Ebn-El-Aas (leader of the Arab troops) ordered the ships to sail off Alexandria
, that particular ship could not move. Eventually the soldier had to confess, and Amro handed the relics back to Pope Benjamin.
The saint's body did not remain in Egypt; it was stolen and taken to Venice by some Italian merchants. They built a huge cathedral in St. Mark's name, believing that St. Mark was their patron Saint. In 1968, part of his relics, which is now kept in the new Cathedral in Cairo, was offered to the Egyptian Pope Cyril (Kyrillos VI) from Pope Paul VI.
HIS APOSTOLIC ACTS
St. Mark was a broad-minded Apostle. His ministry was quite productive and covered a large range of activities. These included:
Preaching in Egypt, Pentapolis, Judea, Asia Minor, and Italy, during which he ordained bishops, priests and deacons
Establishing the "School of Alexandria," which defended Christianity against the philosophical school of Alexandria and conceived a large number of great Church Fathers
Writing the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist, which was modified later by St. Cyril to the Liturgy known today as the Liturgy of St. Cyril
Writing the Gospel according to St. Mark
By Iris Habib el Masri, from her book “The Story of the Copts, Volume I”
Alexandria in the First Christian Century.
St. Mark's arrival in Egypt.
Propagation of the Faith.
Mark's departure from Egypt.
His return, and his writing of the Gospel.
His martyrdom in 68 AD.
l. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His Glory…." In Egypt, we beheld His Glory since the year 61 AD1, when St. Mark came to proclaim the Gospel in obedience to the Holy Spirit.
To Christians all the world over, St. Mark is the writer of one of the Gospels, but to us in Egypt, he is the bearer of Good News, the Founder of the church and the first Patriarch of Alexandria. St. Mark was born in Cyrene, of parents who were righteous, God-fearing and wealthy. While yet in his early childhood, nomad tribes invaded the region of his home town. They robbed and pillaged the whole place, carrying away with them all they could of herd and valuables. Mark's parents suffered the loss of most of their possessions and so migrated to Jerusalem, where Mark was brought up. Little did they realize that this move brought them to where Christ lived and taught, and that through contact with Him, their son was destined to become a bearer of the Light.
2. St. Mark was one of the seventy chosen by our Lord2 and is the man designated by Christ as the one at whose house the Passover was eaten3. This same house was the meeting place of the Apostles after the Crucifixion of Christ4. The upper room was the spot where the Holy Spirit descended on those gathered at Pentecost5, and it is recognized as the first Christian Church6. When the Apostles met in Jerusalem about 52 A.D., thus convoking the first council
, Mark was present. The point to be settled at their meeting was whether the Gentiles were to be accepted into the Church without having to be circumcised. The apostle James presided at this meeting, and his verdict was that they should be accepted freely7. After the meeting, each Apostle resumed his work of evangelization. At this time, Sts. Paul and Barnabas differed on account of Mark, who had separated from them before at Pamphilia.
Barnabas then took Mark with him and departed to Cyprus, while Paul went with Silas, going through Syria and Cilicia8. After St. Mark worked for some time with Barnabas in Cyprus, he was guided by the Holy Spirit to go and preach the word in Pentapolis, his birthplace, and from there he came to Egypt9.
3. At the time of his arrival in Alexandria, the city was considered the most outstanding center of culture and learning in the world. Its famous school and great scholars were sought by all who thirsted for knowledge. There, Greek philosophers, Hebrew rabbis, Persian and Indian seers, together with Egyptian hierophants pondered life's mysteries. The Museum and Library were not only imposing buildings; they contained the rarest and best of human achievements in the mental
, spiritual and artistic fields.
At the same time, Alexandria was noted for its notorious living: its revelers and bravados, its wrestlers and charioteers were always parading the main streets - streets that were colonnaded and very wide, some up to two hundred feet10. To this wondrous city came Mark the Apostle of Christ.
4. On the day of his arrival, he walked from street to street, utterly taken by the entire splendor, beauty and all the waywardness. He walked all day, heedless of hunger and fatigue. Towards evening, the strap of his sandal was torn, and he turned to the first cobbler's shop. As the cobbler was working, the awl pierced his hand and he lifted it up, exclaiming: "Oh, One God!" Immediately, the Apostle took some clay, spat on it and applied it to the wound, thus healing it. And taking his clue from the cobbler's exclamation
, he started talking to him about God the Father and His Son Jesus the Christ. The cobbler's heart was opened, and he took the Evangelist to his home to abide with him. That day, the seed of the Good News was sown and like the mustard seed, it grew in time into a mighty tree. Anianus the cobbler and his entire household were baptized, becoming the first fruits of the church founded by St. Mark11.
5. Soon, many Alexandrians adopted the New Faith, and as their numbers grew, the authorities became alarmed because the converts not only increased in number, but their conversion changed them completely so that they seemed as new people. Their newness was very attractive and the means of winning more people to the Faith. So truthful, so honest, and so content did they become. Any pagan behaving in the same upright manner would be asked, “Did you meet a Christian today?” This implies that even the encounter with a Christian was incentive enough for a man to change his mode of life.
6. As the number of people joining the Faith continued to increase, the authorities sought to lay hands on the Apostle. When the brethren heard of it, they pleaded with St. Mark to leave Egypt for some time. Thereupon, he gathered the believers together and ordained Anianus Bishop for them; he ordained with him twelve priests and seven deacons12. To these, he entrusted the direction of the church.
Leaving Alexandria, St. Mark went first to visit his church in Pentapolis. From there, he went to Rome in answer to St. Paul's invitation. St. Paul had already heard of St. Mark's ministry in the years which followed his contention with St. Barnabas, and he realized, with the spread of the church in Egypt, that St. Mark was intended by the Holy Spirit for work in the Nile Valley13. Hearing that St. Mark had left Egypt to keep away till the anger of the authorities against him abated, St. Paul sent for him to join him in Rome, and St. Mark hastened in response to his call14. Later on, St. Paul testified to St. Mark's usefulness in serving the word15.
7. During the Apostle's absence, Anianus and his helpers continued his work. On his return, St. Mark found that they had already built a church near the seashore. On the other side of the church, they had built houses for the poor and the strangers. The whole Christian community, at this early age, lived a communal life, sharing everything together: praying, fasting and preaching the word. The number of the faithful kept growing, and the fold of the Good Shepherd increased every day. So as soon as St. Mark returned, they sought him and eagerly asked him to write down for them the teachings of the New Way. Thus, in answer to their request and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit
, the Gospel according to St. Mark was written16.
8. The Apostle's zeal seemed to increase as his work flourished. This infuriated the nobles of the city all the more, and they decided that this time he would not escape them. It so happened in 68 A.D. that Easter fell on the same day as the feast of Serapis17. The crowd that gathered in the temple was therefore incited against the Apostle. Hardly waiting for the festival to complete, they went out and headed straight for the church. They seized St. Mark, tied a rope around him and dragged him from street to street and over the rocks on the seashore. In the evening, bruised and bleeding, he was thrown into a dark prison. As he lay there scarcely conscious, a splendor brightened his darkness and behold, Christ appeared to him appareled in celestial light. He said to him, "Be strong, O my evangelist, for tomorrow you shall receive the crown of martyrdom.”
The next morning, the pagans came again. This time they tied the rope round his neck and dragged him in the same manner as on the preceding day. In a few hours, his head was torn from his body. Thus he attained three crowns: the crown of discipleship, the crown of evangelism, and the crown of martyrdom18.
The mob, however, was not satisfied with this horrible ending; they wanted to burn the body. But scarcely had they prepared the pyre, then nature revolted with a storm
, rain, thunder and lightning, dispersing the frenzied mob.
When the tempest subsided, the believers came and took the Saint's body and head, put each in a cask by itself and buried them in his cathedral19. Years later, after the Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.), the body was removed to a church pertaining to the Emperor's partisans, while the head remained in its place. Then, in the ninth century, some Venetian merchants stole the evangelist's body and carried it to their home town, Venice, whose patron Saint was Saint Mark. The body remained in St. Mark's Cathedral of Venice20 until the 24th of June, 1968, when his relics were given by Pope Paul VI to Abba Kyrillos VI, Pope of the Coptic Church. Currently, they rest in a reliquary that was built especially for the occasion under the altar of a new grand Cathedral bearing the name of the blessed evangelist, on a spot known as Abba Roweiss ground in Abbasseya, Cairo. Special festive prayers were held as the Coptic Church was celebrating the nineteenth centenary of St. Mark's martyrdom.
1. This is the date recorded in the Coptic Annals; other historians say that it was about the year 55 A.D.
2. Luke X:1; Didascalia Book V section 57; "De Recta in Deum Fide" by Origin; the Book of Theotokeyas (or hymns of praise to the Blessed Virgin) pp. 175-7, and the section of hymns of praise to St. Mark; Epiphanius, Book 51 on heresy section 5; Chapiat: "Le Saint de Chaque Jour" p. 213; P. d'Orleans: "Les Saints d'Egypte" vol. 1 pp. 494-5 and vol. II p. 511.
3. Matt. XXVI: lB; Mark SIV: l3-15; Luke XXII: 10-12; "Tuhfat’l Geel fee Tafseer’l Ingeel" by Mgr. Youssef ed-Debs (Maronite Bishop) p. 318 where he quotes Cardinal Baronius saying: “The words `such a man' at whose house the Passover was to be eaten, point to Marcus. Our Lord thus designated him, that Judas may not warn the chief priests, and they lay hands on Him before the Mystery of the Last Supper be instituted. As for the house of Marcus, it was the meeting place of the Christ and His disciples.”
4. Mark 16:14; Luke 24:33; John 20:I9.
5. Acts 1:13 and 2:1.
6. Acts 12:l2.
7. Acts 15:l-30.
8. Acts 15:36-41.
9. Arabic Ms. by the monk Shenouda El Baramusi vol. I, pp. 11-19; Coptic Synaxarium, Vol. I, p.127 and vol. II, pp. 103-107; History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria by Severus (Bishop of Ashmunein in the tenth century) in his section on St. Mark; Eusebius book II, sections 15 and 16; "Akhbar’l Qiddeesseen" by Maximus Mazloum, vol. II, p. 552; and "Les Saints d'Egypte" by P. d'Orleans, vol. I, p. 500.
10. Ency. Brit., XIVth ed., vol. I, pp. 577-580.
11. Coptic Synaxarium under 30th of Parmouti (8th of May) - a synaxarium contains a resume of biographies of saints arranged for daily readings; each biography being written to be read on the day of the saint's commemoration.
12. Severus, Bishop of Ashmunein: op. cit., chap. on St. Mark.
13. That Isaiah's prophecy may be fulfilled which says, "In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt" (19:19).
14. Col. 4: l0.
15. 2 Tim. 4:11, and Philemon 1:24.
16. Eusebius: Book 5 section 8; St. John Chrysostom's "Works" translated into French by Father Bareille, vol. XIII p.163; St. Mark's Biography written under April 25, in the book "Vies de Saints Illusrees" by the Benedictine Father Monfaucon, where he says: "Marc, cedant aux desirs des fideles, prit la plume, et sous l'inspiration de l'Esprit-Saint gerivait les pages immortelles de son Evangile." This same author says in his Diar Italic. - chap. IV p.50 - that he saw the original Greek copy of St. Mark's Gospel at Venice and observed that it was written on Egyptian paper (i.e., papyrus). Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons and disciple of Polycarpus (one of the disciples of John the beloved Apostle) affirms that Mark's Gospel was written after the martyrdom of both Peter and Paul the Apostles - cf. de Vanse "Explanation of the Bible," vol. XX p.428, pub. in Paris 1829.
17. A Graeco-Egyptian deity, an amalgam of two names: Ceres-Apis.
18. "Copto-Arabic Book of the Holy Psalmodia for the Year", arranged by the Fathers of the Orthodox Church, pub. in 1624 AM (1908 AD) Cairo, pp. 355-6.
19. The Cathedral of St. Mark in Alexandria stands on the same ancient site. Across the ages, it was rebuilt several times. The present building is very new, having been rededicated on Ascension Day, May 14th 1953.
20. Selim Soleiman: "Mokhtasar Tankh’l Omma’l Qibtiya" (Cairo 1914), p. 283.
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St. Mark’s First Entry to Egypt
Read: Mark 6:7-13
There will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt.
1. How is St. Peter related to St. Mark?