St. Luke: Christians honor the Gospel writer, iconographer and physician

Mosaic of Luke sitting at a desk, with a pen in his hand, paper on the desk

A mosaic of St. Luke writing his Gospel. Photo by Lawrence OP, courtesy of Flickr

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18: Both Eastern and Western Christians today honor St. Luke, a renowned scholar and Gospel author—according to longstanding Christian tradition. A devoted companion of the Apostle Paul, St. Luke was also a practicing physician and respected artist. Though the saint is remembered on several feast days during the Church year, today’s feast shines light on St. Luke’s life and works. (Wikipedia has details.)

Teachings about Luke’s life vary, depending on one’s branch of Christianity. For example, Eastern Christians are familiar with Luke as one of the Seventy Apostles dispatched into the world by Jesus—complete with an Orthodox icon showing the row upon row of apostles.

Historically regarded as the founder of Christian iconography, church tradition says that, upon seeing the icons created by St. Luke—three of which were of the Mother of God—the Virgin Mary commented: “Let the grace of Him Who was born of Me and My mercy be with these icons.”

The life of St. Luke began in Antioch. After immersing himself in art, science, medicine and Greek philosophy, Luke traveled the world until he entered Jerusalem—where St. Luke came to believe in Jesus. After the Resurrection, Gospels attest that Luke met the resurrected Lord on the road to Emmaus, and Luke began accompanying the Apostle Paul on his travels to convert non-Christians. (Get a Catholic perspective at EWTN or at Catholic.org.)

When Christians requested it, St. Luke wrote his first Gospel—and preached it. St. Luke continued on to pen another portion of the New Testament: the Acts of the Apostles. A respected painter, St. Luke painted three icons of the Mother of God, along with icons of apostles Peter and Paul. (Learn the Eastern Christian point of view at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America or at Orthodox Church in America.) At age 84, St. Luke was martyred by idolaters in Greece.

THE MIRACLES OF THE RELICS OF ST. LUKE

As is the case with many saints, the relics of St. Luke have been moved several times throughout history. Orthodox Christians have long believed that the relics were at Padua, Italy; after a Roman Catholic bishop appointed a committee to investigate the relics, it was determined that they most likely did, indeed, belong to St. Luke. A major shrine remains in Padua, and remaining relics have been scattered across continents.

It has been rumored for centuries that the relics of St. Luke are miraculous, and even today, many hold that to be true. A recent claim says that on Dec. 22, 1997, myrrh appeared on the marble of Luke’s tomb. The interior of the sarcophagus has been fragrant of myrrh ever since.