The collect for today, The Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist, from The Book of Common Prayer (Canadian, 1962):
O ALMIGHTY God, who hast instructed thy holy Church with the heavenly doctrine of thy Evangelist Saint Mark: Give us grace, that, being not like children carried away with every blast of vain doctrine, we may be established in the truth of thy holy Gospel; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The author of the second gospel, Saint Mark is generally identified with John Mark, the son of Mary, whose house in Jerusalem was a meeting place for the disciples (Acts 12:12,25). John Mark accompanied his cousin Barnabas and Paul on their missionary journey to Cyprus, but Mark’s early departure to Jerusalem caused a rift between Paul and Barnabas, following which Barnabas took Mark on the next mission to Cyprus while Paul and Silas traveled through Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:37-41).
Paul later changed his mind about Mark, who helped him during his imprisonment in Rome (Col. 4:10). Just before his martyrdom, Paul urged Timothy: “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11).
Also, Peter affectionately calls Mark “my son” and says that Mark is with him at “Babylon”—almost certainly Rome—as he writes his first epistle (1 Pet. 5:13). This accords with church tradition that Mark’s Gospel represents the teaching of Peter.
Mark may be the only evangelist to insert a personal vignette into his gospel. Many scholars believe that he is the young man who followed Jesus after the arrest in Gethsemane, but fled without his garment when pursued (Mark 14:51-52).
Eusebius says that Mark left Rome after the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul and spread the Christian faith in Egypt, where he became the first bishop of Alexandria. His shrine became a place of pilgrimage and a church built in his honour at the site. Some ancient documents say he was martyred, but that claim is considered doubtful. The traditional date of his death is 25 April 68.
After North Africa was conquered by the armies of Islam, rumours arose that St. Mark’s resting place would be profaned, plundered, or even converted to a mosque. Thus, in 828, two Venetian merchants stole the saint’s remains and brought them to Venice, where they were received with great pomp and ceremony. The first St. Mark’s Basilica was built to house the relics. (The first basilica burned down in 976 and was re-built by 1071.)
Artwork: Tintoretto, Finding of the Body of St. Mark, 1562-66. Oil on canvas, Pinacoteca di Brera , Milan.