The Four Evangelists
Today, in the Armenian Church, we celebrate the Feast Day of the Four Evangelists—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Through their divine inspiration and human experiences, these extraordinary men crafted the Gospels, Աւետարան/Avedaran in Armenian.
In Christian tradition, the Four Evangelists are often symbolically represented by four living creatures as described in the Book of Ezekiel (1:5–14) and the Book of Revelation (4:6–8): a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. These symbols capture the essence of the message and the character of the Gospel each Evangelist conveys.
Symbolized by a man or an angel, Matthew's Gospel focuses on the human lineage of Christ, tracing His roots back to Abraham. As a tax collector well-versed in Hebrew tradition, Matthew paints Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, the King promised in the Old Testament.
The lion, a creature of majesty and power, symbolizes Mark's Gospel. This Gospel begins not with Jesus' birth but with His baptism, the initiation of His ministry. Mark portrays Christ as the conquering lion of Judah, emphasizing His authority and power.
Luke's symbol is the ox, an animal associated with sacrifice and service. In ancient religions, the ox was often used in sacrificial offerings, symbolizing atonement and reconciliation. Luke, a physician by profession, highlights the compassionate, sacrificial aspects of Jesus' ministry—His care for the poor, the marginalized, and the ill. Like the ox, Jesus bears the burdens of the world to bring forth the fruits of salvation and healing.
John's Gospel is represented by an eagle, a bird that soars high and sees far. The eagle symbolizes the transcendent vision and spiritual insight, fitting for a Gospel that presents Jesus as the divine Word, the Logos who existed from the beginning. John's Gospel takes us to great theological heights, giving us a panoramic view of Christ's cosmic role in the redemption of the world.
These four symbols not only encapsulate the unique focus of each Gospel, but they also reflect the diverse paths of Christian spirituality. Some of us may be drawn to the theological depths of John, soaring like an eagle in contemplative prayer. Others may find their calling in the compassionate service highlighted in Luke, willing to bear the yoke of sacrifice like an ox. Still, others may resonate with Mark’s urgent call to active discipleship, roaring like a lion in our enthusiasm to spread the Gospel. And then there are those who might identify with Matthew, meticulously connecting dots between Old and New Testaments to understand God's eternal plan for humanity.
In this rich tapestry of symbolism, we find a multi-faceted approach to understanding and following Jesus Christ, a reminder that there are various paths leading to the same divine Truth. On this Feast Day of the Four Evangelists, may we find inspiration in these symbols to live out the Gospel in a way that is most authentic to our individual calling.