Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Feast Day: St. Luke, Evangelist (? - 70 A.D.)

St. Luke was born in Antioch. He was a gentile doctor who was a good and kind man. He heard about Jesus from the great apostle Paul and soon became a Christian. The Bible calls Luke "the beloved physician."

After becoming a Christian, he went everywhere with St. Paul. Luke was a great help to him in spreading the faith in Greece and Rome. He was with Paul when he was shipwrecked and through other dangers, including prison, as they traveled from place to place.

Luke wrote one of the major portions of the New Testament, a two-volume work comprising the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. In the two books he shows the parallel between the life of Christ and that of the Church. He is the only Gentile Christian among the Gospel writers. Tradition holds him to be a native of Antioch, and Paul calls him "our beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14). His Gospel was probably written between A.D. 70 and 85.

Luke appears in Acts during Paul’s second journey, remains at Philippi for several years until Paul returns from his third journey, accompanies Paul to Jerusalem and remains near him when he is imprisoned in Caesarea. During these two years, Luke had time to seek information and interview persons who had known Jesus. He accompanied Paul on the dangerous journey to Rome where he was a faithful companion. "Only Luke is with me," Paul writes (2 Timothy 4:11).

The Gospel According to Luke (GreekΤὸ κατὰ Λουκᾶν εὐαγγέλιονto kata Loukan euangelion), commonly shortened to the Gospel of Luke or simply Luke, is the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels. This synoptic gospel is an account of the life and ministry ofJesus of Nazareth. It details his story from the events of his birth to his Ascension.

The author is traditionally identified as Luke the Evangelist. Certain popular stories, such as the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, are found only in this gospel. This account also has a special emphasis on prayer, the activity of the Holy Spirit, women, and joyfulness. Luke presented Jesus as the Son of God, but turned his attention especially to the humanity of Jesus, featuring His compassion for the weak, the suffering and the outcast.

10th century Byzantine illustration ofLuke the Evangelist.

According to the preface
, the purpose of Luke is to write a historical account, while bringing out the theological significance of the history. The evangelist divides history into three stages: the first ends with John the Baptist, the second consists of Jesus' earthly ministry, and the third is the life of the church after Jesus' resurrection. The author portrays Christianity as divine, respectable, law-abiding, and international. Here, Jesus' compassion extends to all who are needy, women are important among his followers, the despised Samaritans are commended, and Gentiles are promised the opportunity to accept the gospel. While the gospel is written as a historical narrative, many of the facts portrayed therein are based on previous traditions of the recorded Gospel story and not on what some might consider to be historical record.
Biblical Scholars are in wide agreement that the author of the Gospel of Luke also wrote the Acts of the Apostles. Many believe "the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles originally constituted a two-volume work", which scholars refer to as Luke-Acts.


Saint Luke is often portrayed as painting portraits of Mary. According to tradition, Luke was believed to have painted portraits of both Mary and Jesus. Centuries later, it was proven that Luke did not paint such images but he is still considered the patron saint of artists because of this tradition.

Saint Luke is also portrayed with pen in hand because he recorded the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles. He is often shown with an ox, which is a symbol of sacrifice – the sacrifice Jesus made for the world.

Luke wrote as a Gentile for Gentile Christians. This Gospel reveals Luke's expertise in classic Greek style as well as his knowledge of Jewish sources.

The character of Luke may best be seen by the emphases of his Gospel, which has been given a number of subtitles: (1) The Gospel of Mercy: Luke emphasizes Jesus' compassion and patience with the sinners and the suffering. He has a broadminded openness to all, showing concern for Samaritans, lepers, publicans, soldiers, public sinners, unlettered shepherds, the poor. Luke alone records the stories of the sinful woman, the lost sheep and coin, the prodigal son, the good thief. (2) The Gospel of Universal Salvation: Jesus died for all. He is the son of Adam, not just of David, and Gentiles are his friends too. (3) The Gospel of the Poor: "Little people" are prominent—Zechariah and Elizabeth, Mary and Joseph, shepherds, Simeon and the elderly widow, Anna. He is also concerned with what we now call "evangelical poverty." (4) The Gospel of Absolute Renunciation: He stresses the need for total dedication to Christ. (5) The Gospel of Prayer and the Holy Spirit: He shows Jesus at prayer before every important step of his ministry. The Spirit is bringing the Church to its final perfection. (6) The Gospel of Joy: Luke succeeds in portraying the joy of salvation that permeated the primitive Church.

Luke also has a special connection with the women in Jesus' life, especially Mary. It is only in Luke's gospel that we hear the story of the Annunciation, Mary's visit to Elizabeth including the Magnificat, the Presentation, and the story of Jesus' disappearance in Jerusalem. It is Luke that we have to thank for the Scriptural parts of the Hail Mary: "Hail Mary full of grace" spoken at the Annunciation and "Blessed are you and blessed is the fruit of your womb Jesus" spoken by her cousin Elizabeth.

Luke's unique perspective on Jesus can be seen in the six miracles and eighteen parables not found in the other gospels. Luke's is the gospel of the poor and of social justice. He is the one who tells the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man who ignored him. Luke is the one who uses "Blessed are the poor" instead of "Blessed are the poor in spirit" in the beatitudes. Only in Luke's gospel do we hear Mary's Magnificat where she proclaims that God "has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty" (Luke 1:52-53).
Forgiveness and God's mercy to sinners is also of first importance to Luke. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Jesus' feet with her tears. Throughout Luke's gospel, Jesus takes the side of the sinner who wants to return to God's mercy.
Reading Luke's gospel gives a good idea of his character as one who loved the poor, who wanted the door to God's kingdom opened to all, who respected women, and who saw hope in God's mercy for everyone.
The reports of Luke's life after Paul's death are conflicting. Some early writers claim he was martyred, others say he lived a long life. Some say he preached in Greece, others in Gaul. The earliest tradition we have says that he died at 84 Boeotia after settling in Greece to write his Gospel.

"Then [Jesus] led them [out] as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God" (Luke 24:50-53).

Prayers to St. Luke:

Most charming and saintly Physician, you were animated by the heavenly Spirit of love. In faithfully detailing the humanity of Jesus, you also showed his divinity and his genuine compassion for all human beings. Inspire our physicians with your professionalism and with the divine compassion for their patients. Enable them to cure the ills of both body and spirit that afflict so many in our day. Amen.

Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son: Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Father, you chose Luke the evangelist to reveal by preaching and writing the mystery of your love for the poor. Unite in one heart and spirit all who glory in your name, and let all nations come to see your salvation. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Why is Saint Luke the patron of Artists?

 Artists; bachelors; bookbinders; brewers; butchers; glassworkers; goldsmiths; lacemakers; notaries; painters; physicians; sculptors; stained glass workers; surgeons.

 Winged ox; winged calf; ox; picture of the Virgin; palette and brushes; phials of medicine; physician's robes; easel; book and pen; hatchet; wooden horse; books of his Gospel and of the Acts; bishop; painting an icon of our Lady.
In addition to his life as physician and apostle, St. Luke is known as the first iconographer, and the icon “Hodigitria” (“She who shows the way”) is attributed to him. This icon, which shows our Lord and the Mother of God together, indicates that the early Church integrated religious art with theology as an important aspect of our worship.

A tradition that Luke was a painter seems to have no basis in fact. Several images of Mary appeared in later centuries claiming him as a painter but these claims were proved false. Because of this tradition, however, he is considered a patron of painters of pictures and is often portrayed as painting pictures of Mary.

How Saint Luke is represented in Christian Art

It is helpful to be able to recognise Saint Luke in paintings, stained glass windows, illuminated manuscripts, architecture and other forms of Christian art. The artistic representations reflect the life or death of saints, or an aspect of life with which the person is most closely associated. Saint Luke is represented in Christian Art with an easel and painting materials. Beside him is usually an ox, symbolical of sacrifice; in other words, that in St. Luke's Gospel we have the fullest description of the Sacrifice of Christ.


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