Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hail, Mark, Bishop and Evangelist

 Mosaic showing St. Mark's relics protected by pork, Basilica of St. Mark, Venice

Today is the Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist (d. 68 AD), companion of St. Paul, founder of the Church of Alexandria and author of the second Gospel.  According to tradition, the apostles took refuge at St. Mark's house after the death of Jesus, and it was at Mark's house that the resurrected Jesus appeared to them, and where the Holy Spirit descended upon them at Pentecost.  

Tradition also tells us that St. Mark was martyred in Alexandria by pagans who placed a rope around the saint's neck and dragged him through the streets of the city until he was dead.  St. Mark's relics were kept in Alexandria until the 9th century.   By that time, Alexandria had fallen under the dominion of Islam, so, partly to protect the relics, Venetian merchants carried off the saint's remains and brought them to their own city, where a great basilica was built to house them.   To prevent Muslims from molesting the relics during their journey, the merchants covered them with pork, which Muslims are forbidden to touch.  The Coptic Christians of Alexandria believe that St. Mark's head was left behind.  The first duty of every newly appointed patriarch of the city is to hold the head of St. Mark on his lap and wrap the relic in a new shroud.

St. Mark the Evangelist, pray for us.

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