SAINT MARK, EVANGELIST
The Liturgical Year
Abbot Dom Guéranger
The Cycle of holy mother Church brings before us today, the Lion, who, together with the Man, the Ox and the Eagle, stands before the Throne of God. It was on this day, that Mark ascended from earth to heaven, radiant with his triple aureola of Evangelist, Apostle, and Martyr.
As the preaching made to Israel had its four great representatives, Isaias, Jeremias, Ezechiel, and Daniel; so, likewise, would God have the New Covenant to be embodied in the four Gospels, which were to make known to the world the Life and teachings of his divine Son. The Holy Fathers tell us, that the Gospels are like the four streams which watered the Garden of pleasure, and that this Garden was a figure of the future Church. The first of the Evangelists, the first to register the actions and words of our Redeemer, is Matthew, whose star will rise in September; the second is Mark, whose brightness gladdens us today; the third is Luke, whose rays will shine upon us in October; the fourth is John, whom we have already seen in Bethlehem, at the Crib of our Emmanuel. Mark was the beloved disciple of Peter; he was the brilliant satellite of the Sun of the Church. He wrote his Gospel at Rome, under the eyes of the Prince of the Apostles. The Church was already in possession of the history given by Matthew; but the Faithful of Rome wished their own Apostle to narrate what he had witnessed. Peter refused to write it himself, but he bade his disciple take up his pen, and the Holy Ghost guided the hand of the new Evangelist. Mark follows the account given by Matthew; he abridges it, and yet he occasionally adds a word, or an incident, which plainly prove to us that Peter, who had seen and heard all, was his living and venerated authority. One would have almost expected, that the new Evangelist would pass over in silence the history of his master’s fall, or, at least, have said as little as possible about it; but no, the Gospel written by Mark is more detailed on Peter’s denial than is that of Matthew; and as we read it, we cannot help feeling, that the tears, elicited by Jesus’ look, when in the house of Caiphas, were flowing down the Apostle’s cheeks, as he described the sad event. Mark’s work being finished, Peter examined it and gave it his sanction; the several Churches joyfully received this second account of the mysteries of the world’s redemption, and the name of Mark was made known throughout the whole earth.
Mark having written his Gospel, was next to labour as an Apostle. Peter sent him, first, to Aquileia, where he founded an important Church: but this was not enough for an Evangelist. When the time designed by God came, and Egypt, the source of countless errors, was to receive the truth, and the haughty and noisy Alexandria was to be raised to the dignity of the second Church of Christendom, the second See of Peter, Mark was sent by his master to effect this great work. By his preaching, the word of salvation took root, grew up, and produced fruit in that most infidel of nations; and the authority of Peter was thus marked, though in different degrees, in the three great Cities of the Empire: Rome, Alexandria and Antioch.
St. Mark may be called the first founder of the Monastic life, by his instituting, in Alexandria itself, what were called the Therapeutes. To him, also, may be justly attributed, the origin of that celebrated Christian school, of Alexandria, which was so flourishing, even in the 2nd Century.
But glorious as were these works of Peter’s disciple, the Evangelist and Apostle Mark was also to receive the dignity of Martyr. The success of his preaching excited against him the fury of the idolaters. They were keeping a feast in honour of Serapis; and this gave them an opportunity which they were not likely to lose. They seized Mark, treated him most cruelly, and cast him into prison. It was there that our Risen Lord appeared to him, during the night, and addressed him in these words, which afterwards formed the Arms of the Republic of Venice: ‘Peace be to thee, Mark, my Evangelist!’ To which the disciple answered: “Lord” for such were his feelings of delight and gratitude, that he could say but that one word, as it was with Magdalene, when she saw Jesus on the morning of the Resurrection. On the following day, Mark was put to death by the pagans. He had fulfilled his mission on earth, and heaven opened to receive the Lion, who was to occupy near the throne of the Ancient of days the place allotted to him, as shown to the Prophet of Patmos, in his sublime vision.
In the 9th Century, the West was enriched with the Relics of St. Mark. They were taken to Venice; and, under the protection of the sacred Lion, there began for that City a long period of glory. Faith in so great a Patron achieved wonders; and from the midst of islets and lagoons there sprang into existence a City of beauty and power. Byzantine Art raised up the imposing and gorgeous Church, which was the palladium of the Queen of the Seas; and the new Republic stamped its coinage with the Lion of St. Mark. Happy would it have been for Venice, had she persevered in her loyalty to Rome, and in the ancient severity of her morals!
SAINT MARK’S PROCESSION
This day is honoured in the Liturgy by what is called Saint Mark’s Procession. The term, however, is not a correct one, inasmuch as a Procession was a privilege peculiar to the 25th of April previously to the institution of our Evangelist’s feast, which, even so late as the 6th Century, had no fixed day in the Roman Church. The real name of this Procession is, The Greater Litanies. The word Litany means Supplication, and is applied to the religious rite of singing certain chants whilst proceeding from place to place, and this in order to propitiate heaven. The two Greek words Kyrie eleison (Lord have mercy on us) were also called Litany, as likewise were the invocations which were afterwards added to that cry for Mercy, and which now form a Liturgical prayer used by the Church on certain solemn occasions.
The Greater Litanies, (or Processions,) are so called to distinguish them from the Minor Litanies, that is, Processions of less importance as far as the solemnity and concourse of the Faithful were concerned. We gather from an expression of St. Gregory the Great, that it was an ancient custom in the Roman Church to celebrate, once each year, a Greater Litany, at which all the Clergy and people assisted. This holy Pontiff chose the 25th of April as the fixed day for this Procession, and appointed the Basilica of St. Peter as the Station.
Several writers on the Liturgy have erroneously confounded this institution with the Processions prescribed by St. Gregory for times of public calamity. It existed long before his time, and all that he had to do with it was the fixing it to the 25th of April. It is quite independent of the Feast of St. Mark, which was instituted at a much later period. If the 25th of April occur during Easter Week, the Procession takes place on that day, (unless it be Easter Sunday,) but the Feast of the Evangelist is not kept till after the Octave.
The question naturally presents itself, why did St. Gregory choose the 2oth of April for a Procession and Station, in which everything reminds us of compunction and penance, and which would seem so out of keeping with the joyous Season of Easter? The first to give a satisfactory answer to this difficulty, was Canon Moretti, a learned Liturgiologist of last century. In a dissertation of great erudition, he proves that in the 5th, and probably even in the 4th, century, the 25th of April was observed at Rome as a day of great solemnity. The Faithful went, on that day, to the Basilica of St. Peter, in order to celebrate the anniversary of the first entrance of the Prince of the Apostles into Rome, upon which he thus conferred the inalienable privilege of being the Capital of Christendom. It is from that day that we count the twenty-five years, two months and some days that St. Peter reigned as Bishop of Rome. The Sacramentary of St. Leo gives us the Mass of this Solemnity, which afterwards ceased to be kept. St. Gregory, to whom we are mainly indebted for the arrangement of the Roman Liturgy, was anxious to perpetuate the memory of a day, which gave to Rome her grandest glory. He, therefore, ordained that the Church of St. Peter should be the Station of the Great Litany, which was always to be celebrated on that auspicious day. The 25th of April comes so frequently during the Octave of Easter, that it could not be kept as a Feast, properly so called, in honour of St. Peter’s entrance into Rome; St. Gregory, therefore, adopted the only means left of commemorating the great event.
But there was a striking contrast resulting from this institution, of which the holy Pontiff was fully aware, but which he could not avoid: it was the contrast between the joys of Paschal Time, and the penitential sentiments wherewith the Faithful should assist at the Procession and Station of the Great Litany. Laden as we are with the manifold graces of this holy Season, and elated with our Paschal joys, we must sober our gladness by reflecting on the motives which led the Church to cast this hour of shadow over our Easter sunshine. After all, we are sinners, with much to be sorry for, and much to fear; we have to avert those scourges which are due to the crimes of mankind; we have, by humbling ourselves and invoking the intercession of the Mother of God and the Saints, to obtain the health of our bodies, and the preservation of the fruits of the earth; we have to offer atonement to Divine justice for our own and the world’s pride, sinful indulgences, and insubordination. Let us enter into ourselves, and humbly confess that our own share in exciting God’s indignation is great; and our poor prayers, united with those of our holy Mother the Church, will obtain mercy for the guilty, and for ourselves who are of the number. A day, then, like this, of reparation to God’s offended Majesty, would naturally suggest the necessity of joining some exterior penance to the interior dispositions of contrition which filled the hearts of Christians. Abstinence from flesh meat has always been observed, on this day, at Rome; and when the Roman Liturgy was established in France, by Pepin and Charlemagne, the Great Litany of the 25th of April was, of course, celebrated, and the Abstinence kept, by the Faithful of that country. A Council of Aix-la-Chapelle, in 836, enjoined the additional obligation of resting from servile work on this day: the same enactment is found in the Capitularia of Charles the Bald. As regards Fasting, properly so called, being contrary to the spirit of Paschal Time, it would seem never to have been observed on this day, at least not generally. Amalarius, who lived in the 9th Century, asserts that it was not then practiced even in Rome.
We take this opportunity of protesting against the negligence of Christians on this subject. Even persons who have the reputation of being spiritual, think nothing of being absent from the Litanies said on St. Mark’s and the Rogation Days. One would have thought, that when the Holy See took from these Days the obligation of Abstinence, the Faithful would be so much the more earnest to join in the duty still left, the duty of Prayer. The people’s presence at the Litanies is taken for granted: and it is simply absurd, that a religious rite of public reparation should be one from which almost all should keep away. We suppose that these Christians will acknowledge the importance of the petitions made in the Litanies; but God is not obliged to hear them in favour of such as ought to make them and yet do not. This is one of the many instances which might be brought forward of the strange delusions into which private and isolated devotion are apt to degenerate. When St. Charles Borromeo first took possession of his See of Milan, he found this negligence among his people, and that they left the Clergy to go through the Litanies of the 25th of April by themselves. He assisted at them himself, and walked bare-footed in the Procession. The people soon followed the sainted Pastor’s example.
Kyrie eleison! Lord have mercy on us! Let us think, for a moment, of the countless sins that are being committed, day and night; and let us sue for mercy. In the days of Noe, all flesh had corrupted its way, but men thought not of asking for mercy. The flood came, and destroyed them all, says our Saviour. Had they prayed, had they begged God’s pardon, the hand of his justice would have been stayed, and the flood-gates of heaven would not have been opened. The day is to come, when, not water, as heretofore, but fire is suddenly to be enkindled by the Divine wrath, and is to burn the whole earth. It shall burn even the foundations of the mountains; it shall devour sinners, who will be resting then, as they were in the days of Noe, in a false security. Persecuted by her enemies, decimated by the martyrdom of her children, afflicted by numerous apostasies from the faith, and deprived of every human aid, the Church will know that the terrible chastisement is at hand, for Prayer will then be as rare as Faith. Let us, therefore, pray; that thus the day of wrath may be put off, the Christian life regain something of its ancient vigour, and the end of the world not be in our times. There are even yet Catholics in every part of the world; but their number has visibly decreased.
Heresy is now in possession of whole countries, that were once faithful to the Church. In others, where heresy has not triumphed, religious indifference has left the majority of men with nothing of Catholicity but the name, seeing that they neglect even their most essential obligations without remorse. Among many of those who fulfill the precepts of the Church, truths are diminished.
Litany of the Saints
Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us
Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy Mother of God, pray for us.
Holy Virgin of Virgins, pray for us.
St. Michael, pray for us.
All holy Angels and Archangels, pray for us.
All holy orders of blessed spirits, pray for us.
St. John the Baptist, pray for us.
St. Joseph, pray for us.
All holy Patriarchs and Prophets, pray for us.
St. Peter, pray for us.
St. Paul, pray for us.
St. Andrew, pray for us.
St. James, pray for us.
St. John, pray for us.
St. Thomas, pray for us.
St. James, pray for us.
St. Philip, pray for us.
St. Bartholomew, pray for us.
St. Matthew, pray for us.
St. Simon, pray for us.
St. Thaddeus, pray for us.
St. Matthias, pray for us.
St. Barnabas, pray for us.
St. Luke, pray for us.
St. Mark, pray for us.
All holy Apostles and Evangelists, pray for us.
All holy Disciples of the Lord, pray for us.
All Holy Innocents, pray for us.
St. Stephen, pray for us.
St. Lawrence, pray for us.
St. Vincent, pray for us.
Fabian and Sebastian, pray for us.
John and Paul, pray for us.
Cosmas and Damian, pray for us.
Gervase and Protase, pray for us.
All holy Martyrs, pray for us.
St. Sylvester, pray for us.
St. Gregory, pray for us.
St. Ambrose, pray for us.
St. Augustine, pray for us.
St. Jerome, pray for us.
St. Martin, pray for us.
St. Nicholas, pray for us.
All holy Bishops and Confessors, pray for us.
All holy Doctors, pray for us.
St. Anthony, pray for us.
St. Benedict, pray for us.
St. Bernard, pray for us.
St. Dominic, pray for us.
St. Francis, pray for us.
All holy Priests and Levites, pray for us.
All holy Monks and Hermits, pray for us.
St. Mary Magdalen, pray for us.
St. Agatha, pray for us.
St. Lucy, pray for us.
St. Agnes, pray for us.
St. Cecilia, pray for us.
St. Catherine, pray for us.
St. Anastasia, pray for us.
All holy Virgins and Widows, pray for us.
All holy Saints of God, intercede for us.
Be merciful, Spare us, O Lord.
Be merciful, Hear us, O Lord.
From all evil, Spare us, O Lord.
From all sin, Spare us, O Lord.
From thy anger, Spare us, O Lord
From a sudden and unprovided death, Spare us, O Lord.
From the snares of the devil, Spare us, O Lord.
From anger, and hatred, and every evil will, Spare us, O Lord.
From the spirit of fornication, Spare us, O Lord.
From lightning and storms, Spare us, O Lord.
From the scourge of earthquake, Spare us, O Lord.
From plague, famine, and war, Spare us, O Lord.
From everlasting death, Spare us, O Lord.
Through the mystery of thy holy Incarnation, Spare us, O Lord.
Through thy Coming, Spare us, O Lord.
Through thy Birth, Spare us, O Lord.
Through thy Baptism and holy Fasting, Spare us, O Lord.
Through thy Cross and Passion, Spare us, O Lord.
Through thy Death and Burial, Spare us, O Lord.
Through thy holy Resurrection, Spare us, O Lord.
Through thy admirable Ascension, Spare us, O Lord.
Through the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, Spare us, O Lord.
In the day of Judgment, Spare us, O Lord.
We sinners, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst spare us, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst pardon us, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly bring us to true penance, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly govern and preserve thy holy Church, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly preserve in holy religion the Pope and all clerics in holy orders, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly humble the enemies of holy Church, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly give peace and true concord to Christian kings and princes, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly grant peace and unity to the whole Christian world, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst restore to the unity of the Church all who have strayed from the truth and lead all infidels to the light of the Gospel, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly confirm and preserve us in thy holy service, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly lift up our minds to heavenly desires, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly give eternal blessings to all our benefactors, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly deliver our souls, and the souls of our brethren, relations, and benefactors from eternal damnation, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly give and preserve the fruits of the earth, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst kindly grant eternal rest to all the faithful departed, We beg of thee, hear us.
That thou wouldst be so kind as to answer our prayers Son of God, We beg of thee, hear us.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us,
Christ, graciously hear us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Lord, have mercy on us.
O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me. Let them be confounded and ashamed that seek my soul: Let them be turned backward, and blush for shame that desire evils to me: Let them be presently turned away blushing for shame that say to me: Tis well, tis well. Let all that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee; and let such as love thy salvation say always: The Lord be magnified. But I am needy and poor; O God, help me. Thou art my helper and my deliverer: O Lord, make no delay.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
V. Save thy servants.
R. Who put their trust in thee, O God.
V. Be unto us, O Lord, a tower of strength.
R. From the face of the enemy.
V. Let not the enemy prevail against us.
R. Nor the Son of iniquity have power to hurt us.
V. O Lord, deal not with us according to our sins.
R. Nor reward us according to our iniquities.
Pope St. Gregory the Great saved Rome from the plague he ordered a procession around the city to beg the heavens to end their affliction and their prayers were answered!
A Dreadful plague having broken out at Rome, anno 589, which carried off a great number of the people, and among the rest Pope Pelagius, who then sat in St. Peter’s Chair, St. Gregory, his successor, appointed public prayers for appeasing the anger of God, the happy effects of which became so evident by the immediate cessation thereof, that the same pious custom has been ever since continued. Wherefore, since by our repeated transgressions we also have just reason to deprecate the scourges of divine vengeance, let us this day humble ourselves by prayer before the throne of mercy, beseeching God to preserve us from all pestilential distempers, forgive us our sins, and grant his blessing on the fruit of the earth.