by Rudy A. Arizala
25 April 2013
On 25th of April the people of Infanta in the province of Quezon celebrate their town fiesta. They celebrate the martyrdom of one of the Four Evangelists, St. Mark.
Who was St. Mark; where was he born; and what has he done aside from writing one of the Gospels in the New Testament? If one look closely at the statue or image of the patron saint at the altar of the church in Infanta, one would notice the image of a bearded man, quill in his right hand and holding a book with his left hand. At his side there is an animal accompanying the statue, a winged lion.
One would wonder why such statue of St. Mark is accompanied by a winged lion. The statue or image of St. Mark is accompanied by a winged lion because he started his Gospel with St. John the Baptist, “the voice of one crying in the desert”, and emphasizes the “miraculous power of the Savior." In contrast, the statue of Saint Luke, another Evangelist, is typified by an ox, the animal of sacrifice because St.Luke begins his Gospel with the history of Zachary, the priest, offering sacrifice to God and accentuates the universal priesthood of Christ.
After knowing why and which animal accompanies the statue of St. Mark, let us continue the story of St. Mark. He was one of Christ’s 70 disciples and the four evangelists. Saint Mark was born in Cyrene, Libya, but his date of birth is not known.
St. Mark’s name in Hebrew was John, but he is remembered by the Roman name of Mark, a name given him after he embraced Christianity. It is said that when he was christened, his godfather was Saint Peter, the apostle. So, St. Mark went with his godfather St. Peter to Rome. While St. Mark preached in Rome, the people requested him to put his Gospel in writing like what St. Peter had done with his preaching. When the written Gospel of St. Mark was shown to St. Peter, the latter saw it contained the very truth. So St. Peter approved it and ordered that said Gospel of St. Mark be read by all in Rome. Then St. Peter sent St.Mark to Arquilegia to preach the faith of Jesus Christ. While there, St. Mark, aside from preaching the faith, also performed many miracles, healing the sick and wounded thus, converted many people to Christianity. From Arquilegia, St. Peter sent St. Mark to Alexandria, where he also preached the faith of Jesus Christ.
He founded the Church of Alexandria, which today is part of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Some aspects of Coptic liturgy can be traced back to Mark himself. He became the first Bishop of Alexandria and he is honored as the founder of Christianity in Africa.
Perhaps, unknown to many, St. Mark came from a socially prominent family, which was among the first to recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah. His mother Mary was deeply devoted to Jesus Christ. The house of Mary was the “upper room” where the disciples gathered after the Ascension of Jesus Christ. It was also the house where the disciples received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the scene of the Last Supper before Jesus’ Passion, Death on the Cross and Resurrection.
How did St. Mark die? It was said that one Easter Day, when St. Mark was saying Mass at the City of Alexandria, a group of people came and tied a rope around his neck and dragged him through the city streets, his flesh was torn from his body. Then St. Mark was put into prison. While in jail suffering from his wounds, an angel came to comfort him and later the Lord came saying: “Peace be with you Mark, my Evangelist! Have faith, for I am with thee and shall deliver thee!”
The following morning the anti-Christ tied a rope around Mark’s neck; and dragged him again through the streets of Alexandria. St. Mark while being dragged through the streets uttered: “Into thy hands Lord, I commend my spirit!” and then expired. His tormentors was about to burn St Mark’s body, but suddenly there was hail, thunder and lightning and his tormentors fled. Some Christians came and took St. Mark’s body and buried it in the church, with great honor and reverence.
It is said that St. Mark up to these days perform miracles to the people of Infanta, Quezon. For example, it is recalled that during a strong typhoon in 1937 which visited the town, the roof of the church and part of the walls were blown away by strong winds. The people saw that the wooden statue of St. Mark at the altar instead of facing Southward faced towards the West where the Sierra Mountain is, signifying that the people should go to the mountain or seek higher grounds because a flood would be coming. Shortly, thereafter, a big flood came and covered the town of Infanta.
The town of Infanta lies on the path of typhoons coming from the East - the Pacific Ocean which blow across Luzon toward the China Sea. Recently, however, strong typhoons seldom or no longer pass through Infanta but go in another direction--either farther up North or farther South of Infanta. This phenomena is attributed by the old folks of Infanta to the Almighty in answer to the prayers of the people manifested through the miraculous intercession of St. Mark, the Patron Saint of Infanta.
So, the celebration of Infanta’s town fiesta on 25th April is an occasion not only for merry-making, but more importantly as paying homage and thanksgiving for the Lord’s continued blessings through St. Mark’s martyrdom.
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