Comforting Words on the Festa di Marco

per san marco sign venice

In the second half of the fourth century AD, a non-Christian emperor took the throne. We Christians call him Julian the Apostate.

The new emperor took delight in the internal strife of the Church, which seethed in factions right before his eyes. He thought Christianity would destroy itself. But St. John Henry Newman notes:

In indulging such anticipations of overthrowing Christianity, Julian but displayed his own ignorance of the foundation on which it was built. It could scarcely be conceived that an unbeliever, educated among heretics, would understand the vigor and indestructibility of the true Christian spirit; and Julian fell into the error, to which in all ages men of the world are exposed, of mistaking whatever shows itself on the surface of the Apostolic Community, its prominences and irregularities, all that is extravagant, and all that is transitory, for the real moving principle and life of the system.

The thousand of silent believers, who worshiped in spirit and in truth, were obscured by the tens and twenties of the various heretical factions, whose clamorous addresses besieged the Imperial Court.

(from The Arians of the Fourth Century, Chapter 5, Section 1)

Today we keep the feast of my beloved evangelist patron. St. Mark founded the See of Alexandria, Egypt.

Three centuries later, St. Athanasius sat as one of St. Mark’s successors in office. Through the Arian controversy, the Church in Alexandria held fast to the orthodox faith, even when Pope Liberius wavered. (The pope succumbed only under threat of physical torture, not willingly.)

…Anyhoo, if you’re like me, when you get stressed, you lose yourself in the speeches of William Shakespeare’s Richard II.

Like Act III, Scene 2…

No matter where; of comfort no man speak:
Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth,
Let’s choose executors and talk of wills:
And yet not so, for what can we bequeath
Save our deposed bodies to the ground?
Our lands, our lives and all are Bolingbroke’s,
And nothing can we call our own but death
And that small model of the barren earth
Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
Some poison’d by their wives: some sleeping kill’d;
All murder’d: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear’d and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable, and humour’d thus
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king!
Cover your heads and mock not flesh and blood
With solemn reverence: throw away respect,
Tradition, form and ceremonious duty,
For you have but mistook me all this while:
I live with bread like you, feel want,
Taste grief, need friends: subjected thus,
How can you say to me, I am a king?

Here’s the great Derek Jacobi doing the speech:

4 thoughts on “Comforting Words on the Festa di Marco

  1. Blessed feast day to you…shakespere really had a thing for his speeches….. my favorite was the queen mab speech from romeo and juliet but i loved getting to listen to this one and is a great speech for these times…..

    Many prayers….

  2. Many prayers are being said for you on St. Mark’s feast day. As simple minded human beings who have an inbred desire to know the reason for our existance I, for one, see Faith through a heart of trust as the only acceptable answer. And trust can be a scary word.
    But…if we can’t trust
    The One who created us,
    The One Who truly knows us,
    The One Who unconditionally loves us,
    The One Who always forgives us,
    The One Who seeks us more than we seek Him…
    Who or what else is there? We must pray for the grace to trust.
    Perhaps this lack of trust and our subsequent need to build and protect individual empiires (and those of others) is the reason for the crisis that seems to surround us.
    God Blesss you, Father.

  3. I have say Father Mark,You the Best.I had a Smile on my face, That it hurts. I love reading your words.And listen to these Folks. Thanks father Mark,

  4. Thank your so very much Fr. Mark. You have the gift of knowing just what we need to hear when we most need it. You always have my prayers, especially now.
    ,
    Love and Peace in Christ,

    Ann

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