We took the train to Venice, Italy, to visit the relics of St. Mark, the Evangelist. Faith traditions assume that Mark, also known as John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas, was the author of the Gospel of Mark. Mark was not one of the 12 apostles but among the 70 sent out by Jesus to heal and spread his message. Most scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark was first transcribed between 66 and 70 CE in Greek for a Gentile audience and that Mark, the Evangelist, was not the author. This does not matter — the bones have power and we will ask their assistance.
St. Mark founded the Christian Church of Alexandria, Egypt, and was martyred there in 68 AD. In 828, his bones were stolen from Alexandria by two Venetian merchants, who smuggled the relics past Muslim guards by concealing them under layers of pork. His head remains in Alexandria. The theft is portrayed in a painting in the Cathedral of St. Mark.
There is a kind of subterfuge associated with Venice extending into the modern era. It’s nobility mingled with common people during masked balls. Such events still occur and strangers meet within an intensely erotic environment. Masks are available for sale all over Venice.
Venice, built over the marshy islands of the Venice lagoon, was a major maritime trading center and possession of the relics enhanced the city’s reputation. Venice eventually became a magnet for tourists, a romantic city, a decaying, decadent city that will ultimately be lost to the ocean due to global warming.
We rode the water bus. All places have special characteristics, mixing sincerity with deception, modern with ancient, the physical world with the spiritual world.
In 1063, while the Basilica San Marco was being built, St. Mark’s relics could not be found. Tradition states that an apparitional saintly arm extended from a pillar, pointing out the location of the relics so that they could be placed in their crypt. My research indicates that apparitional experiences are somewhat common (see my book: Wondrous Healing). Certain people have experiences that imply that spirits have an interest in the burial of their bones. Spirits, particularly saints, help those who appeal for aid and we visit St. Mark asking him to help you. You need not worry about the mechanisms by which this works.
I walk toward the Basilica San Marco.
People feed the pigeons in the plaza.
We look at the Basilica San Marco with its scaffolding. It seems as if many cathedrals are under repair.
The cathedral is dark inside. We will be asking for help from the other side, the shadow world. We see the tomb of St. Mark but must walk on.
We return to look at the crypt.
I watch a man light a candle, petitioning the saint.
We pay the admission fee, allowing us to come closer to St. Mark’s bones.
There is a chapel to the right of the relics which has been set aside for prayer and meditation. I go there as ask that you find your inner way and achieve peace of mind.
When you meditate, you may find that your fears and anxieties intrude. Merely take note of these thoughts and return your awareness to your breath. By doing this, you will come to see that your fears are merely thoughts. You can let them slide away.
The next day, we return to the cathedral. The Plaza of San Marco is covered with water.
We enter the cathedral, joining a line of tourists.
Lao tsu writes (chapter 46):
“When a country is in harmony with the Tao,
the factories make trucks and tractors.
When a country goes counter to the Tao,
warheads are stockpiled outside the cities.
There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself,
no grater misfortune than having an enemy.
Whoever can see through all fear
will always be safe.”
My daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, lovers! I have undertaken a ritual that joins us and I feel the anxiety and fear in some of your hearts. I salute those who understand my words. I have always loved you and will always love you in the future. Here is what I say: if there is a situation that troubles you, or someone who is against you, let the One take care of this. By meditation or religious ritual, you will see through your fears and anxieties.
She sees through her fears, looking toward the One.
I purchase an image of St. Mark which I will use during my meditation.