Sunday, October 19, 2008

St Luke

Yesterday I wasn't feeling the best, but doubtless St Luke's intercession availed me, and certainly played its part in getting me to confession, which is always a great grace. So, what of St Luke? Here's a quick summary:

The name Luke, Lucas (Λουκας) means ‘light-giving’ or ‘luminous’.

According to unanimous tradition from St Irenaeus onward, Luke is the author of the Gospel that bears his name, and of the Acts of the Apostles.

He was present in Rome during Paul’s first imprisonment (Acts xxvii,1-xxviii,16) and only he remained with Paul during his second imprisonment (II Tim iv,11).

Going on Paul’s allusion in II Cor viii,16-19; xii,18 it is traditionally held that Luke is the ‘brother’ mentioned here; some even think (rather too literally!) that therefore he was the brother of Titus.

He was a Gentile by birth, being numbered with Epaphras and Demas as distinguished from those of the circumcision, as in Colossians (iv,10-11) Paul first denotes Aristarchus, Mark the cousin of Barnabas, and Jesus surnamed Justus as being the only men of the circumcision among his fellow workers, and then mentions Epaphras, Luke and Demas (Col iv,12-14).

Tradition makes him a proselyte – according to Tertullian he was one of Paul’s converts – and native of Antioch, according to Eusebius of Caesarea and St Jerome (this latter may be due to confusion with Lucius (Λουκιος) of Acts xiii, 1; but Luke (Λουκας) is instead a contraction of the name Lucanus, as Silas of Silvanus). Perhaps he was from Philippi.

By tradition from St Irenaeus, Luke’s Gospel conveys the substance of Paul’s preaching. The closest parallel is that between the institution narratives of St Luke xxii,19-20 and I Cor. xi,23-25.

Luke has the best Greek of any New Testament writer. Presumably he was a man of some means and had had a good education.

Tradition holds that he lived to be 84, and never married. By later tradition he was a painter as well as a physician, and produced portraits of Our Lord, Our Lady, and the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul. A rather unlikely tradition held that he was one of the seventy-two disciples, but this seems contradicted by the assertion that he was a convert of St Paul.

In the Traditional Martyrology, this is his praise:

In Bithynia natális beáti Lucæ Evangelístæ, qui, multa passus pro Christi nómine, obiit Spíritu Sancto plenus. Ipsíus autem ossa póstea Constantinópolim transláta sunt, et inde Patávium deláta.

In Bithynia, the birthday of St. Luke the Evangelist. He died, filled with the Holy Ghost, after having suffered much for the Name of Christ. His relics were translated to Constantinople, and thence taken to Pavia.

Strangely, and for reasons I have been unable to uncover, his collect speaks of him always bearing about in his body the mortification of the Cross (cf. esp. II Cor iv,10; St Luke ix,23 & parallels; Gal v,24; vi,17):

Interveniat pro nobis, quæsumus, Domine, sanctus tuus Lucas Evangelista: qui crucis mortificationem jugiter in suo corpore pro tui nominis honore portavit. Per.

May Thy Holy Evangelist Luke intervene for us, we beseech, Lord: who ever bore in his body the mortification of the Cross for the glory of Thy Name. Through...

Our dreadful friends the Anglicans have the following rather nice prayer for St Luke's feast in their 1662 BCP:

Almighty God, who calledst ‘Luke the Physician’ [Col 4:14], ‘whose praise is in the Gospel’ [St Jerome, Comm. in Matt., quoting 2 Cor 8:18], to be an Evangelist, and Physician of the soul; May it please thee, that, by the wholesome medicines of the doctrine delivered by him, all the diseases of our souls may be healed; through the merits of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Furthermore, in the BCP, with its 1871 lectionary (it is important to note that Newman, while yet C. of E., used the earlier lectionary, to which match his famous sermons), the following is the appointed first lesson at Evensong, and I think it most appropriate:

Ecclesiasticus xxxviii,1-15 (Douay Rheims)

38:1 Honour the physician for the need thou hast of him: for the most High hath created him. 2 For all healing is from God, and he shall receive gifts of the king. 3 The skill of the physician shall lift up his head, and in the sight of great men he shall be praised. 4 The most High hath created medicines out of the earth, and a wise man will not abhor them. 5 Was not bitter water made sweet with wood? 6 The virtue of these things is come to the knowledge of men, and the most High hath given knowledge to men, that he may be honoured in his wonders. 7 By these he shall cure and shall allay their pains, and of these the apothecary shall make sweet confections, and shall make up ointments of health, and of his works there shall be no end. 8 For the peace of God is over all the face of the earth. 9 My son, in thy sickness neglect not thyself, but pray to the Lord, and he shall heal thee. 10 Turn away from sin and order thy hands aright, and cleanse thy heart from all offence. 11 Give a sweet savour, and a memorial of fine flour, and make a fat offering, and then give place to the physician. 12 For the Lord created him: and let him not depart from thee, for his works are necessary. 13 For there is a time when thou must fall into their hands: 14 And they shall beseech the Lord, that he would prosper what they give for ease and remedy, for their conversation. 15 He that sinneth in the sight of his Maker, shall fall into the hands of the physician.

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