April 25: Saint Mark the Evangelist

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

A disciple of Jesus, named Mark, appears in several places in the New Testament. If all references to Mark can be accepted as referring to the same person, we learn that he was the son of a woman who owned a house in Jerusalem, perhaps the same house in which Jesus ate the Last Supper with his disciples. Mark may have been the young man who fled naked when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul refers to “Mark the cousin of Barnabas,” who was with him in his imprisonment. Mark set out with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, but he turned back for reasons which failed to satisfy Paul (Acts 15:36–40). When another journey was planned, Paul refused to have Mark with him. Instead, Mark went with Barnabas to Cyprus. The breach between Paul and Mark was later healed, and Mark became one of Paul’s companions in Rome, as well as a close friend of Peter’s.

An early tradition recorded by Papias, Bishop of Hieropolis in Asia Minor at the beginning of the second century, names Mark as the author of the Gospel bearing his name. This tradition, which holds that Mark drew his information from the teaching of Peter, is generally accepted. In his First Letter, Peter refers to “my son Mark,” which shows a close relationship between the two men (1Peter 5:13).

The Church of Alexandria in Egypt claimed Mark as its first bishop and most illustrious martyr, and the great Church of St. Mark in Venice commemorates the disciple who progressed from turning back while on a missionary journey with Paul and Barnabas to proclaiming in his Gospel Jesus of Nazareth as Son of God, and bearing witness to that faith in his later life as friend and companion to the apostles Peter and Paul.


I  Almighty God, who by the hand of Mark the evangelist hast given to thy Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank thee for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

II  Almighty God, by the hand of Mark the evangelist you have given to your Church the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God: We thank you for this witness, and pray that we may be firmly grounded in its truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Isaiah 52:7-10

Ephesians 4:7-8, 11-16

Mark 1:1-15, or Mark 16:15-20

Psalm 2 or 2:7-10

Preface of All Saints

From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

* * *

We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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18 thoughts on “April 25: Saint Mark the Evangelist

  1. This Feast is a Red Letter Day in the Book of Common Prayer 1979.. Its observance and Proper may be not be removed or changed without Prayer Book revision. The SCLM has not (except in very rare instances like today) posted Prayer Book Feasts for comment on this blog. The bio is the one exception to the previous statement. It is not a Prayer Book matter.

  2. After 10 months of comment on this blog and a host of skipped Red Letter Feast days, suddenly Saint Mark is among the lone exceptions posted for comment. Will we be going back to catch the Feasts since July? Or is this just an anomaly?

    • The variation in posting red letter days is due to the different members of the blogging team. Sorry we’re not 100% consistent. We haven’t been posting all the red-letter days because those propers are not part of the trial-use process, and getting feedback on trial use is the primary purpose for this blog.

      And yes, we know that Holy Week and Easter Week take precedence over any commemorations, red or black letter. We’re simply keeping up with the commemorations (as we’ve done on Sundays throughout the year), and trusting that congregations and individuals will make wise choices about their worship and personal devotions.

      Ruth Meyers
      Chair, Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music

      • Dr. Myers.
        Of course. Thank you you for posting a clarification ‘from the top.’
        As our blogging community has grown over the months it is helpful to keep refererencing the basis for the whole exercise.
        I very much appreciate it.

  3. The feast days of St. Mark, and Ss. Philip and James, are of course transferred this year to Monday the 2nd and Tuesday the 3rd respectively, because of Easter Week.

  4. For my part, I wondered why this commemoration showed up on Easter Monday. According to the BCP rubrics, all feasts that occur in Holy Week or Easter Week are transferred to after Low Sunday–even feasts of Our Lord such as Annunciation.

  5. According to the rubrics and every online and paper calendar I have looked at, this feast has been bumped until *next* Monday by Monday of Easter Week, which takes precedence: “Feasts appointed on fixed days in the Calendar are not observed on the days of Holy Week or of Easter Week. Major Feasts falling in these weeks are transferred to the week following the Second Sunday of Easter, in the order of their occurrence.” BCP p. 17. Therefore, this year, St. Mark is on May 2 (transferred from April 24) , and SS Phillip and James is on May 3, transferred from May 1.

  6. Happy Saint Mark’s Day and thank you to JENLANDIS77 for giving us the chance to comment on this narrative to a BCP calendar feast. I’ve used this one for years with no major plans for revolution nor overwhelming impulse to revise it. There are three very minor points I would like to voice: a runaway apostrophe, the irony of the ending, and something about the genre “Gospel.”

    1) Runaway apostrophe. One paragraph ends, “… a close friend of Peter’s.” I always have the urge to ask “of Peter’s WHAT?” He can be “a close friend of Peter” (I prefer that). He can be “Peter’s close friend” (which also makes sense.) Given the colloquial usage, it is common to hear “a close friend of Peter’s,” but that includes two possessives, and I am sufficiently uptight as to think apostrophe’s should be distributed on an as’needed basis’ regulated by a committee of tightwads’ severely limimted by a given number of allocated annual apostrophies’ for which applications’ in triplicate, typed on Underwood manual typewriters’, with genuine carbon copies’, are required. (And for those wondering, I’m not trying to be obnoxious, it’s just my way of underlining without availability of the ‘U’ function key.) Could we “lose” that apostrophe in future printings?

    2a) Ironic ending. Mark’s gospel is regarded by most as either having a lost ending beyond 16:8, or actually ending at 16:8. The reading (from chapter 16) selected here is 16:15-20 — canonical, but …. (notice the lack of an ending). It just strikes me as ironic.

    2b) In another sense, the narrative itself doesn’t have much of an ending, either. For Mark’s narrative, also ironically, this may be perfect!

    3) Gospel genre. I once read an author who credited “Mark” (the Gospel) with being more than the first of the synoptic gospels. He credited its writer with inventing the gospel genre itself — a new format not previously instanced, and different in composition from existing historic, religious, or literary works that contatined materials which overlap partly (but not entirely) with the gospel genre. That is beyond my competence to say, and at this point I can’t even feign remembering who the author or the source was! If it is true, it could (and should) be mentioned in connection with Mark’s gospel.

    • For those who are new to this site, the bloggers who are posting for the Standing Commission has been following the dates as printed in Holy Women, Holy Men, not the dates that they would actually be observed on any given year. There is only one year July 1, 1010-June 30, 2011 to comment on all the new proposed additions to the calendar. So the posts are on the dates printed even if it is a Sunday, or day when another observance would normally take precedence as given in the rubrics in the Book of Common Prayer.

      I would suggest a minor revision to the first sentence of the second paragraph. “At the beginning of the second century, Papias, Bishop of Heiropolis (Turkey) named Mark as the author of the Gospel bearing his name.”

      Perhaps something should be added about the equally early tradition (from Papias) that St. Mark the Evangelist is not the same as St. Mark the Apostle. Papias’ writings, now lost but quoted by Eusebius and others, state that Mark who wrote in the Gospel what he heard and remembered from Peter and others since Mark never heard or followed Jesus.

      By the way, the fourth paragraph is one long sentence and it would benefit from editing!

      • Opps, 2010, not 1010. We may need a millenium, but we have only one year. 😉

    • Re John LaVoe’s possessive: the double possessive has a long history in English. Think of “She’s a friend of ours” and translate the possessive pronoun “ours” to a noun, which requires an apostrophe and an s to make it possessive: “She’s a friend of my mother’s.” There, it makes sense idiomatically, and according to “The New York Times Manual of Style,” the double possessive is “proper.” The Times’ manual also suggests, for verification, that grammarians note the difference between “a picture of Matisse” and “a picture of Matisse’s.” One grammar book I just checked noted that “possessives of ‘of’ phrases” are idiomatic but that one should be careful, lest one “create a humorous confusion”: “You must negotiate the purchase price with the owner of the horse’s wife.” And that’s straight from the horse’s mouth.

    • I was taught that Mark’s Gospel was the first written Gospel. It explained for its length (the shortest). I was taught Mark’s didn’t want to forget any of the events he remembered about Jesus’s life. Thus, he wrote them down “quickly”, so he wouldn’t forget the events he felt were the most important. The events that shouldn’t be forgotten.

  7. As with John LaVoe, I recall (without the source) that Mark (whoever he may have been) did fashion a
    new form of narrative with what we call “gospel”. It was suggested that when a copy was delivered to
    the local library that a new category in the Dewey System had to be created, Was that in Tom Wright’s
    materials ? Perhaps in Ched Myers (sp.) ? I think Fred Borsch once suggested that there was no
    extended ending for Mark because there were members in the community who could give an eye witness
    account of how the story ended.

  8. I tried posting a blank comment so I could get follow-up comments, but apparently I must say something. So I’m saying this.

    • Janet Soskice’s marvelous biography, “The Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Discovered the Hidden Gospels” (Knopf, 2009) follows the Smith twins, Agnes and Margaret, to St. Catherine’s Monastery at Mt. Sinai in about 1893. There, Agnes Smith, who had taught herself Syriac, discovered a Syriac translation of Mark, “earlier and more complete than any hitherto known….” One of the most significant aspects of this palimpsest concerned the ending of Mark’s Gospel: in the KJV, the final chapter of Mark is 21 verses long, describing Christ’s appearance to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection. But in both the Codices Vaticanus and Sinaiticus — the 2 oldest copies of the Bible — Chapter 16 stops after only 8 verses, ending with “the puzzled women leaving the empty tomb of Jesus and telling no one, ‘for they were afraid.'” I recommend this book highly for any number of reasons, not least of which the way in which Soskice takes two important Biblical scholars who were “written out of history” and gives them their due. It reads like a novel, with portrayals of bloviating men, Anglican and Roman Catholic, competing with humble, scholarly women of the Scots Presbyterian stripe.

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