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Evangelist Luke: Disciple of St. Paul

On October 18, the Orthodox Church commemorates the Evangelist Luke. He was one of the Seventy who were early emissaries of Christ sent out to do missionary work. After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.  Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest (Lk 10:1-2). 
 
Originally from Antioch, Luke was a Gentile and a physician by trade. He was the most educated of the four Evangelists. Luke was a companion and disciple of St Paul, accompanying him on his second missionary journey. He wrote his Gospel between 70-80 AD. 
 
The intended audience of his gospel was for Christians of Gentile background. He is the only Evangelist to cite the words of Righteous Simeon, known as the Song of Simeon, said at every vesper service: Lord, now You are letting your servant depart in peace, According to Your word. For my eyes have seen Your salvation which you have prepared before the face of all peoples. A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel (ibid, 2:29-32).
 
Luke was a historian, recording in chronological order all the things pertaining to Christ. The narrative of the conception and birth of John the Baptist and the meeting of Elizabeth and Mary when they were both pregnant is found exclusively in Luke’s Gospel. 
 
The Evangelist also wrote the Book of Acts which is a continuation of the four Gospels. It speaks about the works of the Apostles after the Ascension of Jesus. The theological focus of Acts is the coming of the Holy Spirit who will guide the Church until the Second Coming of Christ. Luke dedicated both his works to Theophilus who was a prominent Gentile and Governor of Achaia who had received Christian instruction. 
 
Let us the Faithful come together, and with songs let us cry out to Luke, that mystical preacher of the Word, using the words of David: "Your tongue became the pen of Christ, the swift-writing scribe. It made the faces of the Gentiles beautiful, when they received divine knowledge. With your tongue you preached the Gospel. You wrote the Acts of your fellow Apostles. Now, as you stand in the presence of God the Trinity, intercede for our souls (Doxastikon of Festal Matins)."
 
The Prophet Ezekiel envisioned four living creatures: this was the likeness of their faces: the face of a man, the face of a lion on the right side of the foursome, the face of an ox on the left, and the face of an eagle (Ezek 1:10). St Gregory the Great says that Luke is the ox “because he started with a sacrifice.”
 
Each creature is a type of Christ who became a man (Matthew) in the incarnation, an ox (Luke) on the Cross, a lion (Mark) in the Resurrection and an eagle (John) in the Ascension. These same living creatures are also mentioned in Revelations 4:6: and in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was a flying eagle. St Irenaeus says that the ox is a symbol of Christ’s sacrificial and priestly office. 
 
Despite being highly educated and one of the Seventy, Luke was doubtful when hearing about the Empty Tomb, thus, the Resurrection:
 
Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?” Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?”
 
So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.” Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself (ibid 24:13-27). 
 
Luke, like the Apostle John, does not reveal his identity. The Tradition of the Church holds that the other traveler with Cleopas was Luke. Yet, despite his ambiguity, Christ revealed Himself to Luke who went on to preach the Word of God throughout Achaia, Egypt, Libya and the Thebaid. He was martyred in Thebes for the Gospel that he both wrote and preached. 
 
O all-blessed Luke, using your words like a hook, you drew to Christ those, who like fish had sunk down into the depth of ignorance, up to godly knowledge, thus procuring for yourself the worthy wage of honor, and they received undying endless life, O Apostle, wise Evangelist, and the author of Acts and the actions of grace (Matins Ainoi).
 
Tradition also credits Luke with painting the first icons of the Theotokos. In fact, some of the icons of Luke depict such that. We also hear of his icon work in one of the Megalynaria (Μεγαλυνάρια) of the Small Paraklesis which is dedicated to the Theotokos: Speechless be the lips of impious ones, those who do not reverence Your great icon, the sacred one which is called Directress, and was depicted for us by one of the apostles, Luke the Evangelist. 
 
This Directress icon (Όδηγήτρια) depicts the Theotokos holding the Child Jesus at her side while pointing to Him as the source of salvation for mankind.
 
O holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke, make intercession to our merciful God, that He grant our souls forgiveness of offenses (Festal Apolytikion).

 

-John Athanasatos 

A graduate of Long Island University, College of Pharmacy, and Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, John works to share the richness and beauty of the Orthodox Faith with the wider community.

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