By: H.G. Bishop Youssef
St. Mark was one of the seventy apostles appointed by our Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 10:10). He is distinguished as one of the four Evangelists. St. Mark authored the oldest canonical Gospel used by both St. Matthew and St. Luke, and probably also by St. John. Many believe the Gospel of Mark to be dated shortly before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.
The Evangelist, St. Mark, is the founder of the Coptic Orthodox Church. This apostle visited Alexandria, Egypt in the year 61 AD to preach the Holy Gospel in obedience to the Holy Spirit. St. Mark was the first missionary to Egypt and succeeded in founding the See of Alexandria. He is regarded as the first pope of an unbroken chain of 117 patriarchs.
Therefore the Coptic Orthodox Church can claim the blessing of apostolicity from its inception. An apostle who was specifically chosen by our Lord Jesus Christ founded the Coptic Orthodox Church. This is historically recorded within “Ecclesiastical History” written by Eusebius. Much has been written about the propagation of the Orthodox Faith due to the missionary work of the Evangelist, St. Mark.
I would like to examine the childhood and spiritual development of the saint in whose mother’s home, the Passover was partaken of. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself chose this home and instituted the Holy Eucharist in its Upper Room. What type of home did St. Mark grow up in for the same home to have been the meeting place for the Apostles following the Crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, to have an Upper Room in which the Holy Spirit descended upon those gathered at Pentecost, and is today recognized as the first Christian Church?
St. Mark was of Jewish descent of the tribe of Levi. He was born “John Mark” and lived in Pentapolis on the Northern African coast, west of Egypt. His family lived in Cyrenica. During St. Mark’s early childhood, nomadic tribes referred to as barbarians, attacked the region in which he was living. With this attack, St. Mark’s parents suffered the loss of most of their possessions.
Following this, his family migrated to Jerusalem. John Mark was provided with a very good education and was fluent in both Greek and Latin in addition to Hebrew. It is believed that St. Mark’s cousin was Barnabas, and his father’s cousin was St. Peter.
Insight into John Mark’s personality can be obtained through this very well known story involving his travels in the mountains near Jordan:
“Once a lion and a lioness appeared to John Mark and his father, Arostalis, while traveling in Jordan. The father begged his son to escape while he distracted the wild beasts and awaited his fate. The father was filled with fear. He had not yet become a Christian.
John Mark assured his father that the Lord Jesus Christ would save both of them, and he began to pray. John Mark stood firm to meet the lions. He made the sign of the cross over himself and then over the attacking lions. Suddenly the two animals became quiet and slowly moved to sit at his feet. As a result of that miracle, the father immediately