Rev. Alban Butler (171173). Volume III: March. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
St. Mark, Bishop and Confessor
SOME Greeks rank among the saints on this day Mark, bishop of Arethusa, in Syria, in the fourth age. When Constantius put to death his uncle Julius Constantius, brother of Constantine the Great, with his eldest son; the two younger, Gallus and Julian, narrowly escaped the sword. In that danger Mark concealed Julian, and secretly supplied him with necessaries for his subsistence. When Julian became emperor, he commanded that the temples which had been demolished by Christians, during the two preceding reigns, should be rebuilt at their expense. Mark had, by the authority of Constantius, demolished a very magnificent temple which was held in great veneration by the idolaters: he had also built a church, and converted a great number of infidels. Authorized by the law of Julian, the heathens of Arethusa, when they saw themselves uppermost, fell on the Christians; and Mark, finding that they were ready to show their resentment against him in particular, which they had long concealed, he at first, pursuant to the gospel precept, betook himself to flight to escape their fury. But understanding that they had apprehended some of his flock instead of him, he returned and delivered himself up to the persecutors, to animate others in the same cause by his example and instructions. They seized him soon after his return, dragged him through the streets by the hair, or any part they could lay hold of, without the least compassion for his age, or regard for his virtue and learning. Having stript him, and scourged him all over his body, joining ignominy and insults with cruelty, they threw him into the stinking public jakes. Having taken him from thence, they left him to the children, ordering them to prick and pierce him, without mercy, with their writing-styles, or steel pencils. They bound his legs with cords so tight, as to cut and bruise his flesh to the very bone; they rang off his ears with small strong threads; and in this maimed bloody condition they pushed him from one to another. After this they rubbed him over with honey and fat broth; and shutting him up in a kind of cage, hung him up in the air where the sun was most scorching, at noon-day, in the midst of summer, in order to draw the wasps and gnats upon him, whose stings are exceedingly sharp and piercing in those hot countries. He was so calm in the midst of his sufferings, that, though so sorely wounded and covered with flies and wasps, he bantered them as he hung in the air; telling them, that while they were grovelling on the earth, he was raised by them towards heaven. They frequently solicited him to rebuild their temple, but though they reduced their demands by degrees to a trifling sum, he constantly answered that it would be an impiety to give them one farthing towards such a work. This indeed would be to concur to idolatrous worship; but his demolishing the temple would have been against the order of law and justice, had he done it without public authority. At length the fury of the people was turned into admiration of his patience, and they set him at liberty; and several of them afterwards begged of him to instruct them in the principles of a religion which was capable of inspiring such a resolution. Having spent the remainder of his life in the faithful discharge of the duties of his station, he died in peace under Jovian or Valens. He is not named in the Roman Martyrology, nor venerated by the church among the saints. He had been long engaged in the errors and intrigues of the Semi-Arians; but the encomiums given him by St. Gregory, Nazianzen, Theodoret, and Sozomen, when they relate his sufferings, show that towards the end of the reign of Constantius, he joined in the orthodox communion.