April 25th (V - 8)
Icon of Apostle & Evangelist Mark
Disciple and Evangelist Mark (+ 63). Martyr Nikos. Eight Holy Wilderness Fathers. Sainted Macedonias, Patriarch of Constantinople (+ 516). Monk Sylvester (Syl'vestr) of Obnorsk (+ 1379). Tsaregrad Icon of the Mother of God (1071).
The Holy Disciple 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 (Comm. 11 June). 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 (Comm. 29 June) 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 eye-witness, 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-seat was occupied by Saint Timothy (Comm. 4 January). 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 (5 October), Sainted Gregory Thaumatourgos ("Wonderworker", Comm. 5 November), 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 bon-fire, 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).
The Monk Sylvester (Syl'vestr) of Obnorsk was a disciple and novice under the Monk Sergei of Radonezh (+ 1392, Comm. 25 September and 5 July). After completing obedience at the Trinity monastery, the Monk Sylvester received blessing for wilderness-dwelling.
In the deep forest at the River Obnora, flowing into the River Kostroma, he set up at his chosen spot a cross and began to asceticise. For a long time no one knew about the holy hermit. His cell was by chance discovered by a peasant who had lost his way. He told the distraught hermit, how he had come to this place, over which earlier he had seen luminous rays, and then pillars of cloud. The monk shed tears of sorrow, that the place of his solitude had been found out. The pilgrim besought the saint to tell about himself.
The Monk Sylvester said, that he was already living here no short while, and that he ate tree bark and roots. At first he became weak without bread and fell on the ground from his weakness. But then an Angel appeared to him in the guise of a wondrous man and touched his hand. From that moment the Monk Sylvester did not experience any distress. And then the peasant another time, this time deliberately, came back to the monk and brought him bread and flour for reserve supply.
This one meeting was sufficient for the exploits of the hermit to become known to many. Soon peasants began to come to him from the surrounding though not close settlements. The Monk Sylvester did not refuse them to build cells alongside him.
When the brethren had gathered, the monk himself set off to Moscow and petitioned of Sainted Alexei (1354-1378, Comm. 12 February) blessing for the construction of a temple in honour of the Resurrection (Voskresenie) of Christ. The sainted-hierarch entrusted to him an antimins ["antimension" or 'corporal" for the altar table, needful for celebrating of Divine Liturgy], and made him hegumen of the monastery. With the construction of the church the number of brethren quickly grew, and the monk frequently withdrew for prayer into the dense forest. This spot received the name "Commanded-Grove", since the Monk Sylvester commanded that no trees should be cut there. In the thick of this grove the monk himself dug out three wells, and a fourth -- on the side of an hill at the River Obnora. When the monk returned from his solitude, there usually awaited him around the monastery a number of people, and each wanted to receive his blessing and hear his advice.
When the saint fell into a fatal illness, the brethren, who were distressed about his going off into solitude, were even more distressed about the impending end of the saint. "Grieve not over this, my beloved brethren, -- the monk said to them in solace, -- for in everything is the will of God. Keep the commandments of the Lord and fear not in this life to suffer misfortune, so as to receive reward in Heaven. If indeed I have boldness before the Lord and my deed be pleasing to Him, then this holy place will not diminish with my departure. But pray the Lord God and His All-Pure Mother, that ye be delivered from temptation of evil". The monk died on 25 April 1479 and was buried towards the right side of the wooden Resurrection church.
There has been preserved from the year 1645 a record of miracles of the monk, in which 23 miracles are described. In quite a number the monk healed from demonic?possession (12 cases) and delirium, and from eye-afflictions (6 cases). A lesson teaching miracle occurred in 1645. The priestmonk Job of the monastery directed peasants to cut down the interdicted forest-grove for firewood, and for this he was struck blind. After four weeks he acknowledged his sin, repented and gave a vow not to act on his own will, but to do everything on the advice of the brethren. The priestmonk finished out the molieben in church, after which he was brought up to the reliquary of the Monk Sylvester, and there he regained his sight.
Sainted Macedonias, Patriarch of Constantinople, guided his flock through the years 496-511. He was exiled to Paphlagonia for his activity opposing the heresy of Eutykhias, under the emperor Anastasias I (491-518). He died in exile in the year 516. His body was buried at Tsar'grad (Constantinople) in the church of Saint Kallinikos. At the funeral service the saint was "re-baptised" [by the heretics].
The Celebration of the Tsaregrad Icon of the Mother of God on 25 April is done in honour of a locally venerated icon, situated at Moscow at the Uspenie church on Malaya Dimitrovka. The depiction of this image is distinct from that of the Tsaregrad Icon of the MostHoly Mother of God celebrated on 17 September, although it appears to be a copy from it. (The wonderworking Tsaregrad Icon appeared in the year 1071, on 25 April).
© 1999 by translator Fr S Janos