Saint of the Day – St Luke the Evangelist – 18 October – Physician, disciple of St Paul, Evangelist, Author of the Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Tradition says he was an artist too. He was born at Antioch and Died in c 74 in Greece. Some say he was martyred, others that he died of natural causes. His relics reside at Padua, Italy. Patronages – artists, bachelors, bookbinders, brewers, butchers, doctors, glass makers, glassworkers, glaziers, gold workers, goldsmiths, lacemakers, lace workers, notaries, painters, physicians, sculptors, stained glass workers, surgeons, unmarried men, 2 cities. Attributes – Evangelist, Physician, a bishop, a book or a pen, a man accompanied by a winged ox/winged calf/ox, a man painting an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a brush or a palette (referring to the tradition that he was a painter). St Luke is one of the Four Evangelists—the four traditionally ascribed authors of the canonical Gospels. The early church fathers ascribed to him authorship of both the Gospel according to Luke and the book of Acts of the Apostles, which would mean Luke contributed over a quarter of the text of the New Testament, more than any other author. Prominent figures in early Christianity such as Jerome and Eusebius later reaffirmed his authorship. The New Testament mentions Luke briefly a few times and the Pauline epistle to the Colossians refers to him as a physician (from Greek for ‘one who heals’); thus he is thought to have been both a physician and a disciple of Paul. Christians since the faith’s early years have regarded him as a saint. He is believed to have been a martyr, reportedly as having been hanged from an olive tree, though some believe otherwise.
Luke came from the large metropolitan city of Antioch, a part of modern-day Turkey. In Luke’s lifetime, his native city emerged as an important center of early Christianity. During the future saint’s early years, the city’s port had already become a cultural center, renowned for arts and sciences. Historians do not know whether Luke came to Christianity from Judaism or paganism, although there are strong suggestions that Luke was a gentile convert.
Educated as a physician in the Greek-speaking city, Luke was among the most cultured and cosmopolitan members of the early Church. Scholars of archeology and ancient literature have ranked him among the top historians of his time period, besides noting the outstanding Greek prose style and technical accuracy of his accounts of Christ’s life and the apostles’ missionary journeys.
Other students of biblical history adduce from Luke’s writings that he was the only evangelist to incorporate the personal testimony of the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose role in Christ’s life emerges most clearly in his gospel. Tradition credits him with painting several icons of Christ’s mother and one of the sacred portraits ascribed to him – known by the title “Salus Populi Romano – Salvation of the Roman People”– survives to this day in the Basilica of St Mary Major.
Some traditions hold that Luke became a direct disciple of Jesus before His ascension, while others hold that he became a believer only afterward. After St Paul’s conversion, Luke accompanied him as his personal physician– and, in effect, as a kind of biographer, since the journeys of Paul on which Luke accompanied him occupy a large portion of the Acts of the Apostles. Luke probably wrote this text, the final narrative portion of the New Testament, in the city of Rome where the account ends.
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 After the martyrdom of St Paul in the year 67, St Luke is said to have preached elsewhere throughout the Mediterranean and possibly died as a martyr. However, even tradition is unclear on this point. Fittingly, the evangelist whose travels and erudition could have filled volumes, wrote just enough to proclaim the gospel and apostolic preaching to the world.
Luke’s unique character may best be seen by the emphases of his Gospel, which has been given a number of subtitles:
1) The Gospel of Mercy
2) The Gospel of Universal Salvation
3) The Gospel of the Poor
4) The Gospel of Absolute Renunciation
5) The Gospel of Prayer and the Holy Spirit
6) The Gospel of Joy