Friday, April 25, 2008

Saint Mark the Evangelist

Mark is apparently the least-documented of the four Gospel writers, though his was the first completed. Here's a composite hymn for his feast, one of those that includes a specific verse for the day.

Come sing, ye choirs exultant,
Those messengers of God,
Through whom the living Gospels
Came sounding all abroad!
In one harmonious witness
The chosen four combine,
While each his own commission
Fulfills in ev'ry line.

As, in the prophet's vision,
From out the amber flame
In form of visage diverse
Four living creatures came;
Lo, these the fourfold river
Of paradise above,
Whence flow for all earth's people
New mysteries of love.

For Mark, O Christ, we praise thee,
The weak by grace made strong,
Whose labors and whose Gospel
Enrich our triumph-song;
May we in all our struggling
Find strength from thee supplied,
And all, as fruitful branches,
In thee, the Vine, abide.

Adam of St. Victor, c.1170;
tr. Jackson Mason, 1889; alt. (v 1 & 2)
Horatio Bolton Nelson, 1864; alt. (v.3)
Henry T. Smart, 1835

So why was Mark considered weak, then made strong? (this also turns up in other hymns for the day I found) Tradition holds that the youth who ran away when Jesus was arrested (leaving his clothes behind) was Mark, as the story is related only in his Gospel (14:51-2). Possibly a "weak" reaction to the situation, though all the others with Jesus ran also. In at least one source, Mark is also described as "stump-fingered" (one or all is unknown) which might have been considered a form of "weakness." In either (or both) case(s) I guess he was redeemed (thus made strong) by writing the Gospel.

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