St. Luke, the Evangelist – October 18 I Apostle and Evangelist, the first Iconographer

Published by Jacob P Varghese on

St Luke, (Latin name ‘Lucanus’) the glorious, holy, Apostle and Evangelist is numbered among the Seventy Apostles, was native of Antioch, Syria and a disciple of apostles (Col. 4: 14). Some scholars believe that Luke was an enlightened Greek physician who lived in the Greek city of Antioch in Ancient Syria. Some other scholars and theologians think Luke was a Hellenic Jew. St. Paul has recorded that Luke, accompanied him in the missionary journeys, toward the close of St Paul’s ministry. At a point when all his co-workers had left the Apostle Paul, the Disciple Luke stayed on with him to tackle all the toiling of pious deeds (2 Tim. 4: 10-11). Luke was well-educated, and he studied topics such as art, Ancient Greek philosophy, and even medicine. St. Luke had developed his intellect with various scholarly studies and shows a thorough knowledge of the Law of Moses and the customs of the Jewish people.

St. Luke at some point in his life, had travelled to Jerusalem and encountered Christ. Christ’s teachings influenced St. Luke, changing the course of his life. He began to believe in Jesus, and he started to preach about Christ to others. This helped him to tell the story of Christ’s life, works, and ministry, including his birth, death, and resurrection. Luke was a gentile of Greek origin thus is probably the only person among the gospel writers who is not of Jewish origin.

St. Luke was a fellow labourer and Co-worker of St. Paul (Phil. 1: 24). They earned their own living. “Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me” (Acts 20: 34). St. Paul did the tent-making and Luke practised medicine, as he was a physician (Acts 18: 3). Luke was with Paul in his last days and final imprisonment in Rome. Luke travelled along with St. Paul (c. AD 51-58) to Jerusalem. It is assumed that when St. Paul was in prison, Luke had occasion to mingle with the other apostles and to collect materials to write the gospel and the Acts of the Apostles.

Luke has left us two New Testament books, namely, his Gospel, according to St. Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, the third and fifth books of the New Testament. His Gospel covers over 30 years of Jesus’ earthly life, while the Acts covers over 30 years of Church life from its beginning. His gospel is considered the most poetic and beautiful of all, with high literary standards. He uses the good grammar, correct Greek and the most eloquent of the New Testament. He pictures Jesus as the world’s Savior and Lord. He was a man of prayer, as his gospel is pre-occupied with the power of prayer. He had a high regard for the dignity of women for they played an important part of his writings. In Acts 1: 1, Luke explains that in his gospel that he has dealt with “all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day when He was taken up, i.e., until His Ascension into heaven.” In the two books he shows the parallel between the life of Christ and that of the Church.

The gospel according to Luke is unique in certain respects. The infancy and childhood of Jesus is described in this gospel. The Magnificat is included in this gospel (Lk. 1: 46-56). Luke might have visited St. Mary to collect these details. It is said that St. Luke drew the picture of St. Mary for the first time, which is preserved at the St. Mark’s Orthodox Church, Jerusalem. He was the founder of Iconography. Our Orthodox Church tradition speaks of St. Luke as the Church’s first iconographer. It was St. Luke, we are told, who wrote the first icon of the Holy Theotokos, bearing in her arms the Christ Child, acceding to the pious desire of the early Christians. He later painted two other icons of the all-holy Theotokos, which he brought to the Mother of God for her approval. On seeing the icons, she said: “May the grace of Him Who was born of me and my mercy be with these icons!” Tradition also attributes that the other disciple in the road to Emmaus was St Luke (Lk 24: 13 – 35).

After the martyr’s death of the First-Ranked Apostles Peter and Paul, Saint Luke left Rome to preach in Achaia, Libya, Egypt and the Thebaid. He healed those sick of body and soul. He wrote the gospel either at Achaia or Greece. In the city of He departed for heavenly abode at the age of eighty-four either at Acacia or Thebes, through martyrdom, crucified on an olive tree in lieu of a cross. Like his friend and mentor, the Apostle Paul, St. Luke fought the good fight, finished his course and kept the Faith.

Having served the Lordcontinuously as a bachelor, filled with the Holy Spirit, he reposed in the Lord at the age of 84 years. When he passed away from this world, there flowed from his holy body a secretion or balm which, when used as an ointment, healed those suffering from eye diseases. Miracles of healing continued at his grave site which the faithful from nearby and afar would visit, praying to him to be healed of their diseases. Years later when the persecution of Christians ceased, the remains of St. Luke were moved to Constantinople. His relics now lie there, buried beneath the altar in the Church of the Holy Apostles, together with the remains of the apostles Andrew and Timothy. He served the Lord continuously, unmarried, filled with the Holy Spirit, submitting all his talents for the glory of God. He is the patron saint of painters, physicians, surgeons and healers. The feast of St. Luke is celebrated on 18 October, in the Orthodox Syrian Church.  

Some Quotes of St. Luke

Remember the past, plan for the future, but live for today, because yesterday is gone and tomorrow may never come. ~ St Luke

For with God nothing will be impossible. ~ St Luke

And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. ~ St Luke

To whom much is given, from him much will be required. ~ St Luke

What is impossible with men is possible with God. ~ St Luke

To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. ~ St Luke

Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions. ~ St Luke

Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you ~ St Luke

Your faith has saved you; go in peace. ~ St Luke

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. ~ St Luke

And why beholds thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceives not the beam that is in thine own eye? ~ St Luke

A man’s life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses. ~ St Luke

We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do. ~ St Luke


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