Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist

SAINT MARK is the writer of a Gospel, which follows the teachings of Saint Peter. We are told that Mark’s mother was a friend of Peter, and that Mark was a Levite, or Jewish priest. That he has a pagan name, Marcus, after the Roman god of War, should not be surprising, since the Jewish people were long subjugated to foreigners, and that the Temple priesthood and leadership — contrary to the Pharisees — tended to encourage enculturation. Tradition says that Saint Mark founded the Church in Egypt, also known as the Coptic Church, and he is highly honored there.

Saint Mark is patron of notaries, lawyers, lions, prisoners, glaziers and stained-glass window makers, and against insect bites, impenitence, and certain diseases of the neck. He is also patron of those named Mark!

Here are some of my old images of Saint Mark:

Saint Mary and Saint Abraam Coptic Orthodox Church, in Saint Louis County, Missouri, USA - Icon of Saint Mark the Evangelist

A Coptic icon of Saint Mark, shown with the attributes of a lion, a codex, and a quill. Found at Saint Mary and Saint Abraam Coptic Orthodox Church, in Saint Louis County, Missouri.

Anyone not familiar with Church iconography should know that icons are not meant to be photographic or naturalistic, but rather are used in devotion — directly, in the Eastern Churches, and usually as a pious reminder in the Latin Church. If you see an icon of a man with a lion, and the man is writing a book, then the man depicted is undoubtably Saint Mark the Evangelist. As far as I know, there is no legend about Saint Mark meeting a lion, but this is instead a symbol with deep scriptural roots.

Now, one could instead claim that this symbolism is only for the benefit of the illiterate, that a modern icon should be naturalistic, and should have the name of the Saint written out in text. But in what language should this be written? A good icon should be useful for at least a couple of centuries, or perhaps even a thousand years or more with maintenance. Languages changes, nations rise and fall, and peoples and icons migrate — and migration among the Copts has increased greatly due to recent persecution from the so-called ‘Arab Spring.’ Those who argue against the icons have too many false assumptions than can be refuted here.

Saint Mary Roman Catholic Church, in Alton, Illinois, USA - detail of stained glass window, lion of Saint Mark

At Saint Mary's Catholic Church, in Alton, Illinois.

A winged lion, with a halo and a scroll.

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - mosaic of the winged lion of Saint Mark the Evangelist.jpg

Mosaic, found in the narthex of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis.

The Saint's relics are entombed at the Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark, in Venice, Italy. The interior design of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis is based on that ancient Venetian church.

Saint Mark Roman Catholic Church, in Affton, Missouri - exterior - 2

Saint Mark Parish, in Saint Louis County.

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