Thursday, October 18, 2012

Luke the Evangelist

Almost all that we know about Luke comes from the New Testament. He was a physician (Col 4:14), a companion of Paul on some of his missionary journeys (Acts 16:10; 20:5; 27-28). Material found in his Gospel and not elsewhere includes much of the account of Our Lord's birth and infancy and boyhood, some of the most moving parables, such as that of the Good Samaritan and that of the Prodigal Son, and three of the sayings of Christ on the Cross: "Father, forgive them," "Thou shalt be with me in Paradise," and "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."

In Luke's account of the Gospel, we find an emphasis on the human love of Christ, on His compassion for sinners and for suffering and unhappy persons, for outcasts such as the Samaritans, tax collectors, lepers, shepherds (not a respected profession), and for the poor. The role of women in Christ's ministry is more emphasized in Luke than in the other Gospel writings.

In the book of Acts, we find the early Christian community poised from the start to carry out its commission, confident and aware of Divine guidance. We see how the early Christians at first preached only to Jews, then to Samaritans (a borderline case), then to outright Gentiles like Cornelius, and finally explicitly recognized that Gentiles and Jews are called on equal terms to the service and fellowship of Christ.

If we accepted that Luke was the author of the Gospel bearing his name and the Acts of the Apostles, certain details of his personal life can be reasonably assumed. He does exclude himself from those who were eyewitnesses to Jesus' ministry. He does however repeatedly use the word "we" in describing the Pauline missions in Acts of the Apostles, indicating that he was personally there at those times. There is evidence that Luke resided in Troas, the province which included the ruins of ancient Troy. Evidence of this is, he writes in Acts in the third person about Paul and his travels, until they get to Troas, where he switches to the first person plural. The "we" section of Acts continues until the group returns to Troas, where his writing goes back to the third person. This change happens again the second time the group gets to Troas. There are three "we sections" in Acts, all following this rule. Luke never stated, however, that he lived in Troas, and this is the only evidence that he did.

Another Christian tradition states that he was the first iconographer, and painted pictures of the Virgin Mary (The Black Madonna of Częstochowa) and of Peter and Paul. Thus late medieval guilds of St Luke in the cities of Flanders, or the Academia di San Luca ("Academy of St Luke") in Rome, imitated in many other European cities during the 16th century, gathered together and protected painters. There is no scientific evidence to support the tradition that Luke painted icons of Mary and Jesus, though it was widely believed in earlier centuries, particularly in Eastern Orthodoxy. The tradition also has support from the Saint Thomas Christians of India who claim to still have one of the Theotokos icons that St Luke painted and Thomas brought to India.

The one thing known of Luke's death comes from a 2nd century Greek manuscript; "Luke, a native of Antioch, by profession a physician. He had become a disciple of the apostles and later followed Paul until his [Paul's] martyrdom. Having served the Lord continuously, unmarried and without children, filled with the Holy Spirit he died at the age of 84 years."

Propers for Saint Luke the Evangelist

The Collect.

ALMIGHTY God, who didst inspire thy servant Saint Luke the Physician, to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of thy Son; Manifest in thy Church the like power and love, to the healing of our bodies and our souls; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle - 2 Timothy 4:5-15

The Gospel - St Luke 10:1-7a

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