This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

March 29 -- Feast of Saint Mark of Arethusa

Arethusa, of which Mark was bishop, is the area in and around Homs, Syria.  You may recall the intense brutality of the siege of Homs which ended a couple weeks ago.  Yes?  I don't have much to make of that particular link this morning, except that brutality seems to be a constant human trait across time and place.  Not universal, perhaps, but uninterrupted.

Mark, in better days
Mark was a bishop during the reign of Julian the Apostate, who tried to put the Christian djinni back in the bottle after Constantine and his successors let it out.  [Christian djinni: yeah, I'm mixing my traditions here, but I am a very syncretic guy.]  Mark had taken advantage of the legalization of Christianity by "replacing" one of the temples dedicated to some pantheonic god with a church.  The imperial decree outlawing Christianity gave local polytheists the opportunity to strike back.

They demanded that Mark pay for the construction of a new temple.  He refused; in fact, he packed his bags and left town.  They sent word after him that they had rounded up some of the Christians he left behind and would be executing them in cruel and unusual ways until he returned.  He returned promptly.

They dragged him through the streets, slashed him with knives, tore out his hair, beat him to a pulp, and tossed him in a swamp.  Then they told him they'd stop if he paid for the construction of a temple.  He refused.

They smeared what was left of him with honey and hoisted him up in the air in a cage.  Hornets and gnats swarmed him all day in the hot sun, but he wouldn't budge.  Then they started lowering the price.  Would he pay for just the frame of the building?  How about just the pillars?  Would he just chip in for the cornerstone so they could declare victory and let him down?  Not one drachma.

Here's a happy ending (for once).  The local polytheists started feeling bad for the slow-roasting, honey-glazed spare ribs of saint they had hanging in the middle of town.  They let him down, cleaned him up, and petitioned Emperor Julian for a pardon on his behalf.  I wish that Bashir al-Assad were as forgiving today. 

Special thanks go out today to the Bollandists, a group of Belgian Jesuits who compiled the Acta Sanctorum, an exhaustive encyclopedia of saints.  Their work is the foundation of a lot of the stuff written here, but they are especially noted today because Mark of Arethusa got bounced from the Western canon due the the false charge of Arianism; Bollandist research cleared his name of the heresy and restored his spot.

No comments:

Post a Comment