Thursday, April 25, 2013
Vol. 24, no. 115

Holy Griffin of the Gospels

    April 25 is the feast of the holy Evangelist Saint Mark, represented by the Angelic Lion foreseen in the Old Testament by the Prophet Ezechiel when the latter received a glorious vision of the four Evangelists and their purpose which comprised the entire first chapter of the Prophesy of Ezechiel. These winged creatures, who many believe were angels in the prophet's vision, foresaw St. Matthew depicted as a human angel, St. Mark as the winged lion - or, in heraldic terms, a griffin, St. Luke as the winged ox, and St. John as the glorious eagle all with the purpose of spreading the news of the Messiah Who sat upon the throne of Heaven. It is said St. Mark received his moniker, if you will, from his description of St. John the Baptist of whom the evangelist begins his gospel in St. Mark 1: 2-3, "As it is written in Isaias the prophet: Behold I send my angel before thy face, who shall prepare the way before thee. A voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight His paths." John Gregory cites the Catholic Encyclopedia's claim that St. Mark wrote from St. Peter's point of view for he wrote what was preached by Simon-Peter, Petrus - the Rock upon which Christ established His only true Church on earth for all time as He promised and as was foretold in the Old Covenant.

    One of the most interesting aspects of the Gospel of Saint Mark is the following quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

    All early tradition connects the Second Gospel with two names, those of St. Mark and St. Peter, Mark being held to have written what Peter had preached.

    The reason this fact interests me is because in the Gospel we have stressed the fall of Saint Peter when he denies our Lord three times while his dignity as head of the Church is all but passed over completely. It seems that Saint Peter learned our Lord’s teaching that those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Let me continue with the above quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia on this topic:

    We have just seen that this was the view of Papias and the elder to whom he refers. Papias wrote not later than about A.D. 130, so that the testimony of the elder probably brings us back to the first century, and shows the Second Gospel known in Asia Minor and attributed to St. Mark at that early time. So Irenæus says: "Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, himself also handed down to us in writing what was preached by Peter" (Against Heresies III.1 and III.10.6). St. Clement of Alexandria, relying on the authority of "the elder presbyters", tells us that, when Peter had publicly preached in Rome, many of those who heard him exhorted Mark, as one who had long followed Peter and remembered what he had said, to write it down, and that Mark "composed the Gospel and gave it to those who had asked for it" (Eusebius, Church History VI.14). Origen says (ibid., VI, xxv) that Mark wrote as Peter directed him (os Petros huphegesato auto), and Eusebius himself reports the tradition that Peter approved or authorized Mark's work (Church History II.15). To these early Eastern witnesses may be added, from the West, the author of the Muratorian Fragment, which in its first line almost certainly refers to Mark's presence at Peter's discourses and his composition of the Gospel accordingly (Quibus tamen interfuit et ita posuit); Tertullian, who states: "The Gospel which Mark published (edidit is affirmed to be Peter's, whose interpreter Mark was" ("Contra Marc.", IV, v); St. Jerome, who in one place says that Mark wrote a short Gospel at the request of the brethren at Rome, and that Peter authorized it to be read in the Churches ("De Vir. Ill.", viii), and in another that Mark's Gospel was composed, Peter narrating and Mark writing (Petro narrante et illo scribente--"Ad Hedib.", ep. cxx). In every one of these ancient authorities Mark is regarded as the writer of the Gospel, which is looked upon at the same time as having Apostolic authority, because substantially at least it had come from St. Peter. In the light of this traditional connexion of he Gospel with St. Peter, there can be no doubt that it is to it St. Justin Martyr, writing in the middle of the second century, refers (Dialogue with Trypho 106), when he says that Christ gave the title of "Boanerges" to the sons of Zebedee (a fact mentioned in the New Testament only in Mark 3:17), and that this is written in the "memoirs" of Peter (en tois apopnemaneumasin autou--after he had just named Peter). Though St. Justin does not name Mark as the writer of the memoirs, the fact that his disciple Tatian used our present Mark, including even the last twelve verses, in the composition of the "Diatessaron", makes it practically certain that St. Justin knew our present Second Gospel, and like the other Fathers connected it with St. Peter. Catholic Encyclopedia

    The encyclopedia goes on to show how Saint Mark's Gospel goes on to show details and events that Saint Peter would have witnessed such as Jesus taking Peter’s mother-in-law's hand and raising her up (1:31)

    Now let us go to the Abbe Dom Prosper Gueranger's, The Liturgical Year, to read the life of our Saint:

        The cycle of holy Mother Church brings before us to-day the Lion, who, together with the Man, the Ox, and the Eagle, stands before the throne of God. (Ezechiel 1:10) It was on this day that Mark ascended from earth to Heaven, radiant with his triple aureole of Evangelist, Apostle and martyr.

        As the preaching made to Israel had its four great representatives-Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, and Daniel - so, likewise, would God have the New Covenant to be embodied in the four Gospels, which were to make known to the world the life and teachings of his divine Son. The holy Fathers tell us that the Gospels are like the four streams which watered the garden of pleasure, (Genesis 2:10) and that this garden was a figure of the future Church. The first of the Evangelists - the first to register the actions and words of our Redeemer - is Matthew, whose star will rise in September; the second is Mark, whose brightness gladdens us today; the third is Luke, whose rays will shine upon us in October; the fourth is John, whom we have already seen in Bethlehem, at the crib of our Emmanual.

        Mark was the beloved disciple of Peter; he was the brilliant satellite of the sun of the Church. He wrote his Gospel at Rome, under the eyes of the Prince of the Apostles. The Church was already in possession of the history given by Matthew; but the faithful of Rome wished their own Apostle to narrate what he had witnessed. Peter refused to write it himself, but he bade his disciple take up his pen, and the Holy Ghost guided the hand of the new Evangelist. Mark follows the account given by Matthew; he abridges it, and yet he occasionally adds a word, or an incident, which plainly prove to us that Peter, who had seen and heard all, was his living and venerated authority. One would have almost expected that the new Evangelist would pass over in silence the history of his master's fall, or at least have said as little as possible about it; but no - the Gospel written by Mark is more detailed on Peter's denial than is that of Matthew; and as we read it, we cannot help feeling that the tears elicited by Jesus' look when in the house of Caiphas, were flowing down the Apostle's cheeks as he described the sad event. Mark's work being finished, Peter examined it and gave it his sanction; the several Churches joyfully received this second account of the mysteries of the world's redemption, and the name of Mark was made known throughout the whole earth.

        Matthew begins his Gospel with the human genealogy of the Son of God, and has thus realized the prophetic type of the Man; mark fulfils that of the Lion, for he commences with the preaching of John the Baptist, whose office as precursor of the Messias had been foretold by Isaias, where he spoke of the voice of one crying in the wilderness - as the Lion that makes the desert echo with his roar.

        Mark, having written his Gospel, was next to labor as an Apostle. Peter sent him first to Aquileia, where he founded an important Church: but this was not enough for an Evangelist. When the time designed by God came, and Egypt, the source of countless errors, was to receive the truth, and the haughty and noisy Alexandria was to be raised to the dignity of the second Church of Christendom - the second see of Peter - Mark was sent by his master to effect this great work. By his preaching, the word of salvation took root, grew up, and produced fruit in that most infidel of nations; and the authority of Peter was thus marked, though in different degrees, in the three great cities of the Empire: Rome, Alexandria and Antioch.

        St. Mark may be called the first founder of the monastic life by his instituting, in Alexandria itself, what were called the Therapeutes. To him, also, may be justly attributed the origin of that celebrated Christian school of Alexandria which was so flourishing even in the second century.

        But glorious as were these works of Peter's disciple, the Evangelist and Apostle Mark was also to receive the dignity of martyr. The success of his preaching excited against him the fury of the idolaters. They were keeping a feast in honour of Serapis; and this gave them an opportunity which they were not likely to lose. They seized Mark, treated him most cruelly, and cast him into prison. It was there that our Risen Lord appeared to him during the night, and addressed him in these words, which afterwards formed the arms of the Republic of Venice: "Peace be to thee, Mark, My Evangelist!" To which the disciple answered: "Lord" - for such were his feelings of delight and gratitude that he could say but that one word, as it was with Magdalen, when she saw Jesus on the morning of the Resurrection. On the following day Mark was put to death by the pagans. He had fulfilled his mission on earth, and Heaven opened to receive the Lion, who was to occupy the place allotted to him near the throne of the Ancient of days, as shown to the Prophet of Patmos in his sublime vision. (Apocalypse 4)

        In the ninth century the West was enriched with the relics of St Mark. They were taken to Venice; and, under the protection of the sacred Lion, there began for that city a long period of glory. Faith in so great a patron achieved wonders; and from the midst of islets and lagoons there sprang into existence a city of beauty and power. Byzantine art raised up the imposing and gorgeous church, which was the palladium of the Queen of the Seas; and the new Republic stamped its coinage with the Lion of St Mark. Happy would it have been for Venice had she persevered in her loyalty to Rome and in the ancient severity of her morals.

    Almighty God; You taught Saint Mark's master that those who exalt themselves will be humbled and those who humble themselves will be exalted. Please give us the gift of humility. Most High God, Redeemer of the world, in Thy mercy please help us to persevere in good works which redound to Thee and bestow upon us a courage that resembles that of your faithful disciple, Saint Mark. Sancte Marce, ora pro nobis.

John Gregory

        "Catholics who remain faithful to Tradition, even if they are reduced to but a handful, they are THE TRUE CHURCH"
        Saint Athanasius, "Apostle of Tradition" AD 373

Thursday, April 25, 2013
Vol. 24, no. 115