The Holy Apostle and Evangelist Mark, named also John-Mark (Acts 12:12), was a Disciple from among the Seventy, and was also a nephew of the Disciple Barnabas. He was born at Jerusalem. The house of his mother Mary adjoined the Garden of Gethsemane. As Church Tradition relates, on the night of the Sufferings of Christ on the Cross he followed after Him, wrapped in a linen winding-cloth, and he fled from the soldiers catching hold of him (Mk. 14:51-52). After the Ascension of the Lord, the house of his mother Saint Mary became a place of prayerful gatherings of Christians and a lodging for certain of the Apostles (Acts 12:12).
Saint Mark was a very close companion of the Apostles Peter and Paul and of the Disciple Barnabas. Saint Mark was at Seleucia together with Paul and Barnabas, and from there he set off to the island of Cyprus, and he crossed over the whole of it from East to West. In the city of Paphos Saint Mark was an eyewitness of how the Apostle Paul had struck blind the sorcerer Elymas (Acts 13:6-12).
After working with the Apostle Paul, Saint Mark returned to Jerusalem, and then with the Apostle Peter he arrived in Rome, from whence at the latter’s bidding he set out for Egypt, where he became founder of the Church.
During the time of the second evangelic journey of the Apostle Paul, Saint Mark met up with him at Antioch. From there he set out preaching with the Disciple Barnabas to Cyprus, and then he went off again to Egypt, where together with the Apostle Peter he founded many churches, and then also at Babylon. From this city the Apostle Peter directed an Epistle to the Christians of Asia Minor, in which he points to Saint Mark as his spiritual son (1 Pet. 5:13).
When the Apostle Paul came in chains to Rome, the Disciple Mark was at Ephesus, where the cathedra was occupied by Saint Timothy. The Disciple Mark arrived together with him in Rome. There also he wrote his holy Gospel (c.62-63).
From Rome Saint Mark again set off to Egypt. At Alexandria he made the beginnings of a Christian school, from which later on emerged such famous fathers and teachers of the Church, as Clement of Alexandria, Sainted Dionysios, Sainted Gregory Thaumatourgos, and others. Zealous with the arranging of Church divine services, the holy Disciple Mark compiled the order of Liturgy for the Alexandrian Christians.
Later on in preaching the Gospel, Saint Mark also visited the inner regions of Africa, and he was in Libya at Nektopolis.
During the time of these journeys, Saint Mark received inspiration of the Holy Spirit to go again to Alexandria and confront the pagans. There he visited at the home of the dignitary Ananias, for whom he healed a crippled hand. The dignitary happily took him in, hearkened with faith to his narratives, and received Baptism. And following the example of Ananias, many of the inhabitants of that part of the city where he lived were baptised after him. This roused the enmity of the pagans, and they gathered to kill Saint Mark. Having learned of this, the holy Disciple Mark made Ananias bishop, and the three Christians: Malchos, Sabinos and Kerdinos – presbyters.
The pagans pounced upon Saint Mark when he was making divine services. They beat him, dragged him through the streets and threw him in prison. There Saint Mark was granted a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ, Who strengthened him before his sufferings. On the following day the angry crowd again dragged the holy disciple through the streets towards the court-room, but along the way Saint Mark died with the words: “Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”
The pagans wanted to burn the body of the holy disciple. But when they lit up the bonfire, everything grew dim, thunder crashed, and an earthquake occurred. The pagans fled in terror, and Christians took up the body of the holy disciple and buried it in a stone crypt. This was on 4 April in the year 63. The Church celebrates his memory on 25 April.
In the year 310, a church was built over the relics of the holy Disciple Mark. In the year 820, when the Mahometan Arabs had established their rule in Egypt and those of this different faith oppressed the Christian Church, the relics of Saint Mark were transferred to Venice and placed in the church of his name.
In the ancient iconographic tradition, which adopted symbols for the holy Evangelists borrowed from the vision of Saint John the Theologian (Rev. 4:7), the holy Evangelist Mark is depicted by a lion – symbolising the might and royal dignity of Christ (Rev. 5:5). Saint Mark wrote his Gospel for Christians from among the gentile pagans, since he emphasises predominantly the words and deeds of the Saviour, in which particularly is manifest His Divine Almightiness. The many particularities of his account can be explained by his proximity to the holy Apostle Peter. All the ancient writers testify that the Gospel of Mark represents a concise writing down of the preaching and narratives of the first ranked Apostle Peter. One of the central theological themes in the Gospel of Saint Mark is the theme of the power of God, doing the humanly impossible, wherein the Lord makes possible that which of man is impossible. By the efficacy of Christ (Mk. 16:20) and the Holy Spirit (Mk. 13:11), His disciples are to go forth into the world and preach the Gospel to all creatures (Mk. 13:10, 16:15).