Feast of St. Mark

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St. Mark's winged lion

If you were planning a dinner party to which you could invite the most interesting people who ever lived, you might invite St. Mark. Though we don’t know much about his life, we do know that he was an eyewitness to Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane and that he was a secretary and scribe for the apostle, and first pope, Peter, whose testimony is captured in Mark’s gospel. Mark was baptized by Peter. He travelled with Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. Imagine the stories he would have to tell!

Where do we find Mark in the garden? (Read Mark 14: 50-52.) The unnamed young man running naked from the scene has always been understood by the Church to be Mark, who later recorded Peter’s account of Christ while Peter was in prison in Rome, awaiting execution. Some speculate the looming martyrdom, in part, accounts for the brevity of Mark’s gospel. There is no nativity story, and there are no stories of Jesus’ boyhood. The book begins with his baptism, temptation in the desert and public ministry, moving relentlessly to the cross. Some have called it an extended Passion narrative, but perhaps Mark and Peter knew they hadn’t much time.

If you were planning a dinner party with the most interesting people who ever lived, you might invite St. Mark.

The tradition has it that Mark went to Alexandria, the great center of Jewish learning and practice in Egypt. It is said that he founded the church there and was martyred there. He is called the Father of the African Church, and Egyptian Coptic Christians say that his head is enshrined in St. Mark’s Church in Alexandria. The city of Venice, Italy claims Mark as its patron and holds that his bones rest there, in the San Marco Cathedral. It is likely that any relics of St. Mark resting in Venice were stolen from Alexandria by Venetian traders and sailors. Stories abound by and about today’s saint.

His symbol is the winged lion. The imagery goes back to John 4:7. The lion symbolizes the power of the evangelist’s words. The wings are like a halo, a sign of spiritual elevation. If you are celebrating the name day of a friend or family member named Mark, you can make this easy lion’s cake.

Bake your favorite cake recipe in a 9” square cake pan. (If you have more batter than a 9” pan requires, make cupcakes with the leftover batter.) Turn the cooled cake out of the pan onto a waxed paper-covered cutting board. Cut a 31/2” x 5” rectangle out of the lower left corner of the cake for the lion’s body. Place it on the serving plate or tray. What you’ll have left is a cake shaped like an upside down “L.”  Place the upside down “L” on the serving plate or tray and place your rectangle flush against the longer line of the “L,” right in the middle. There you have your lion, face, neck (the mane comes later) and body. Now ice the whole thing with light brown (mocha-colored) frosting. Swirl the frosting to make it look furry. Then, toast some coconut (put the coconut, shredded or flaked, on a baking pan and toast in a 250-degree oven for about 10 minutes. Check frequently and shake or stir so that it doesn’t burn) and use the toasted coconut to make the lion’s mane. (Or else just make a round cake and decorate the top with a lion’s face and mane.) Use your imagination to fill in the rest of the details: licorice whip candy to make a tail and outline a mouth, a maraschino cherry for a nose, candy canes for legs, whatever you like or have on hand.