by Rev. Dr. Greg Wismar
The date makes the difference. That simple observation is true for many situations, especially so for annual calendar celebrations. It is not always so great to have a special day near a bigger special date. People who have birthdays within a week or three of Christmas (like me) know that their special day is easily lost among the other holiday festivities. There is an innate order of priorities when it comes to what celebration is the most important at a given time. That basic order applies to the dates on the Church calendar as well as on the annual calendar that regulates our lives. Some special days are annually observed; others tend to be over-looked because of when they occur.
Each of the four Gospel writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—has a special day of commemoration on the calendar. Three of these evangelists are well placed during the year. The day appointed to remember and thank God for St. John is Dec. 27. Although it is close to Christmas, which might cause it not to be noticed, it was established by the originators of the Church Year as one of the official “Days of Christmas.” Along with St. Stephen’s Day on Dec. 27 and Holy Innocents on Dec. 28, it is part of a sequence of notable observances at the close of the calendar year.
Both the Day of St. Matthew (Sept. 21) and the Day of St. Luke (Oct. 18) occur during the long, quiet season of the weeks after Pentecost. By the time those days roll around each year, the Church is looking for something special to celebrate, so both days are often observed, especially when they fall on or near a Sunday.
The Day of St. Mark is April 25, which always sets it in the season of Easter. This year, it actually falls on the day after Easter! In the weeks that follow the Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord, the Church is so “Easter happy” (as well it should be) that the saints’ days and other commemorations on the calendar in that part of the year are often are missed.
St. Mark, whose Gospel account shares so many small details not recorded by the other three evangelists, deserves our notice and our expressions of thanks to God. In his Gospel alone, we hear Jesus say “Peace! Be still!” to the roaring waves on the Sea of Galilee (Mark 4:39) and hear His words spoken in Aramaic, His native language, as He revives the little girl from death by saying “Talitha cumi!” (Mark 5:41) and gives a man back the ability to hear and speak clearly by saying “Ephphatha!” (Mark 7:34).
Reflecting the first-person experiences shared with him by St. Peter, Mark blesses us with the opportunity to be there with Jesus in a singular way. Remembering his special day in April by reading through his account of the life of our Lord, the briefest of the four Gospels, would be a fitting way to honor his memory on April 25 this year!
> Did you know? 60 LCMS churches are named after St. Mark.
About the Author: Rev. Dr. Greg Wismar is pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church, Newtown, Conn.