Saint Mark and Alexandria

Saint Mark

Saint Mark the Evangelist, one of the seventy disciples, and the writer of one of the four Gospels, was born in Libya three years after the birth of Christ. He was of Jewish parents who later moved to Palestine. Saint Mark’s house was where the Lord would meet with His Apostles, and where He celebrated the Passover with them. In his house the Apostles also were gathered when the Holy Spirit descended on the Day of Pentecost. Thus, the house of Saint Mark is well known in all Apostolic Churches, as the first church in the world.

His First Mission to Egypt

When Saint Mark entered and walked through the streets of Alexandria, the most famous city in Egypt, his sandals were torn. While Ananias the cobbler was mending Saint Mark’s shoes, his finger was cut from the awl and he cried out: “O the one god!” Saint Mark healed the cobbler’s finger and spoke to him about who the “One God” really was. Ananias invited Saint Mark to his home where he and his household were baptised after having professed their belief in the Christian Faith. Soon afterwards, many others believed and Ananias’s house became the meeting place for the faithful.

In 62 AD, Saint Mark decided to leave Egypt to visit the new believers he had preached to in the Pentapolis. Before leaving, he ordained Ananias as bishop. He also founded a church in the Crypt where the Holy Family had taken refuge, thus fulfilling the prophesy of Isaiah: “In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border… Then the Lord will be known to Egypt, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day” (Isaiah 19:19,21).

His Second Mission and Martyrdom

When Saint Mark returned to Egypt, after the martyrdom of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, he found that the Church had grown so much that he ordained three priests and seven deacons to help Ananias. Saint Mark preached for another seven years against the local pagan gods with such vigor that the feeling of hatred against him became intense. At that time, three races were dwelling in Egypt: the Egyptians, the Greeks and the Jews, in addition to a few Romans. Serapis was the god of the Greeks in Egypt; he was the god of Alexandria. On Easter Day in 68 AD, Saint Mark was administering the Holy Liturgy, and on the same day, the pagans were celebrating the feast of Serapis, the god of Alexandria. Encouraged by the Roman prefect, the pagans rushed and attacked the church where Saint Mark and the faithful were praying. They captured Saint Mark, tied a rope around him and dragged him through the streets of the city. At night he was thrown into prison where an angel appeared to him, strengthening and encouraging him. On the following day he was dragged again through the streets and martyred. Saint Mark is considered the first of the unbroken line of Patriarchs of the Coptic Church; His Holiness Pope Tawadros, the present patriarch, being Saint Mark’s 117th’ successor- the 118th` Pope of Alexandria. The full official title of the Patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church is `Pope and Patriarch of the great city of Alexandria, the Middle East, Ethiopia, Nubia and the Pentapolis’.