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September 27, 2018

Holy Apostles Mark, Aristarchus and Zenon of the Seventy

Sts. Mark, Aristarchus and Zenon of the Seventy (Feast Day - September 27)


To Mark.
He who is boastfully called John and Mark,
Excelled on the path of the Apostles.

To Aristarchus.
Aristarchus was an excellent initiate of the Word,
Beginning in excellency and living the life of a stranger.

To Zenon.
Zenon preached the Word of the living God,
Reviving very many who were dead in error.

Mark, also known as John (Acts: 12:12), was the nephew of Saint Barnabas (June 11) from his brother. It was in the house of his mother Maria that the persecuted disciples found shelter after the Ascension of the Lord. In 2 Timothy 4:11, written when the Apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome, he says, "Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." That Mark went to Rome seems evident from Philemon 24, "Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers," and Colossians 4:10, "My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the nephew of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.)" He went on to become Bishop of Apollonia, and through his preaching of the gospel, he banished the worship of the idols. He is commemorated both on October 30th and September 27th, though Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite argues they were different people because the latter is said to have been Bishop of Byblos, whose shadow alone was able to heal the sick, but they were most likely the same.

The Apostle Paul mentions Aristarchus several times. He was one of those faithful companions of the apostle Paul who shared with him his labors and sufferings. He is suddenly mentioned along with Gaius as having been seized by the excited Ephesians during the riot stirred up by the silversmiths (Acts 19:29). They are designated "men of Macedonia, Paul's companions in travel." We learn later that he was a native of Thessalonica (Acts 20:4; Acts 27:2). They were probably seized to extract from them information about their leader Paul, but when they could tell nothing, and since they were Greeks, nothing further was done to them.

When Aristarchus attached himself to Paul we do not know, but he seems after the Ephesian uproar to have remained in Paul's company. He was one of those who accompanied Paul from Greece via Macedonia (Acts 20:4). Having preceded Paul to Troas, where they waited for him, they traveled with him to Palestine. He is next mentioned as accompanying Paul to Rome (Acts 27:2). There he attended Paul and shared his imprisonment. He is mentioned in two of the letters of the Roman captivity, in the Epistle to the Church at Colossians 4:10, and in the Epistle to Philemon (Philemon 1:24), in both of which he sends greetings. In the former Paul calls him "my fellow-prisoner."

According to tradition, Aristarchus was martyred by beheading during the persecution of Nero. This is affirmed on his feast celebrated on April 14th. Dorotheos, Bishop of Tyre, distinguishes him from another Apostle Aristarchus, who was Bishop of Syrian Apamea and commemorated on September 27th, but they are probably the same person. In the Synaxarion for September 27th, he is said to have imitated Saint John the Forerunner in eating only locusts and honey and wearing a leather garment.

Zenon is also known as Zenas, whom Paul writes about in his Epistle to Titus (3:13): "Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need." According to tradition, it was Zenon the lawyer who authored the life of the Apostle Titus. He was ordained by the Apostle Peter as the Bishop of Diospolis, which is probably the city later known as Laodicea. Having become a dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit, he liberated many from the error of idolatry.

All three Apostles, having lived a life pleasing to God as shepherds of the flock of Christ, departed to the Lord where they rejoice together.