The Evangelists and the Four Living Creatures
Since the time of the early church, the Fathers associated Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John with the four “living creatures” in Revelation 4:7:
The first creature resembled a lion, the second was like a calf, the third had a face like that of a human being, and the fourth looked like an eagle in flight.
The symbolism of the four creatures can be traced back to the prophet Ezekiel:
Their faces were like this: each of the four had a human face, and on the right the face of a lion, and on the left, the face of an ox, and each had the face of an eagle.Ezekiel 1:10
St. Jerome connected Mark with the lion, Luke with the ox or calf, Matthew with the human, and John with the eagle. St. Augustine and St. Irenaeus, among other Fathers, assigned them differently, but St. Jerome’s order endured through the centuries.
Winged Lion of St. Mark
The next verse in Revelation describes the living creatures as winged, visionary, and prophetic:
The four living creatures, each of them with six wings, were covered with eyes inside and out. Day and night they do not stop exclaiming:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty,Revelation 4:8
who was, and who is, and who is to come.”
Saint Mark the Evangelist has thus been portrayed as a winged lion by iconographers and artists through the ages.
Christ, the Lion of Judah
The symbol of the lion belongs chiefly to Christ, the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5), but his voice resounds through the mouths of his apostles and evangelists.
Since the Book of Revelation describes a vision of heavenly worship, today’s couplet honoring Saint Mark summons the vision of adoring angels encircling the throne of the Lamb.
Let the whole world hear the Lion’s roar!
Surrounding God’s throne, angels adore.