October 18, 2020: ST. LUKE, EVANGELIST
October 18, 2020: COMMEMORATION OF ST. LUKE, EVANGELIST
The symbolical Ox, reminding us of the figurative sacrifices, and announcing their abrogation, takes his place to-day, with the man (St. Matthew), the lion (St. Mark), and the eagle (St. John), to complete the number of the four mystical creatures before the throne of God.
May thy holy Evangelist Luke, O Lord, we beseech thee, intercede for us, who continually bore the mortification of the cross in his body, for the honour of thy name. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
The goodness and kindness of God our Saviour hath appeared to all men. (Titus, ii. 11; iii. 4) It would seem that the third evangelist, a disciple of St. Paul, had purposed setting forth this word of the doctor of the Gentiles; or may we not rather say, the apostle himself characterizes in this sentence the Gospel wherein his disciple portrays the Saviour prepared before the face of all peoples; a light to the revelation of the Gentiles, and the glory of . . . Israel. (St. Luke, ii. 31, 32) St. Luke’s Gospel, and the words quoted from St. Paul, were in fact written about the same time; and it is impossible to say which claims priority.
Under the eye of Simon Peter, to whom the Father had revealed the Christ the Son of the living God, Mark had the honour of giving to the Church the Gospel of Jesus, the Son of God. (St. Mark, i. 1) Matthew had already drawn up for the Jews the Gospel of the Messias, Son of David, Son of Abraham. (St Matth, i. 1) Afterwards, at the side of Paul, Luke wrote for the Gentiles the Gospel of Jesus, Son of Adam through Mary. (St. Luke, iii. 38) As far as the genealogy of this First-born of His Mother may be reckoned back, so far shall extend the blessing He bestows on His brethren, by redeeming them from the curse inherited from their first father.
Jesus was truly one of ourselves, a Man conversing with men and living their life. He was seen on earth in the reign of Augustus; the prefect of the empire registered the birth of this new subject of Cæsar in the city of His ancestors. He was bound in the swathing-bands of infancy; like all of his race, He was circumcised, offered to the Lord, and redeemed according to the law of His nation. As a Child He obeyed His parents; He grew up under their eyes; He passed through the progressive development of youth to the maturity of manhood. At every juncture, during His public life, He prostrated in prayer to God the Creator of all; He wept over His country; when His heart was wrung with anguish at sight of the morrow’s deadly torments, He was bathed with a sweat of blood; and in that agony He did not disdain the assistance of an angel. Such appears, in the third Gospel, the humanity of God our Saviour.
How sweet too are His grace and goodness! Among all the children of men, He merited to be the expectation of nations and the Desired of them all: He who was conceived of a humble Virgin; who was born in a stable with shepherds for His court, and choirs of angels singing in the darkness of night: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good-will.’ But earth had sung the prelude to the angelic harmonies; the precursor, leaping with delight in his mother’s womb, had, as the church says, made known the King still resting in His bride-chamber. To this joy of the Bridegroom’s friend, the Virgin Mother had responded by the sweetest song that earth or heaven has ever heard. Then Zachary and Simeon completed the number of inspired canticles for the new people of God. All was song around the new-born Babe; and Mary kept all the words in her heart, in order to transmit them to us through her own evangelist.
The divine Child grew in age and wisdom and grace before God and man; till His human beauty captivated men, and drew them with the cords of Adam to the love of God. He was ready to welcome the daughter of Tyre, the Gentile race that had become more than a rival of Sion. Let her not fear, the poor unfortunate one, of whom Magdalene was a figure; the ride of expiring Judaism may take scandal, but Jesus will accept her tears and her perfumes; He will forgive her much because of her great love. Let the prodigal hope once more, when worn out with his long wanderings, in every way whither error has led the nations; the envious complaint of his elder brother Israel will not stay the outpourings of the sacred Heart, celebrating the return of the fugitive, restoring to him the dignity of sonship, placing again upon his finger the ring of the alliance first contracted in Eden with the whole human race. As for Juda, unhappy is he if he refuse to understand.
Woe to the rich man, who in his opulence neglects the poor Lazarus!
The privileges of race no longer exist: of ten lepers cured in body, the stranger alone is healed in soul, because he alone believes in his deliverer and returns thanks (St. Luke, xvii. 18). Of the Samaritan, the levite, and the priest, who appear on the road
to Jericho, the first alone earns our Saviour’s commendation (St. Luke, x. 30-37). The pharisee is strangely mistaken, when, in his arrogant prayer, he spurns the publican, who strikes his breast and cries for mercy (St. Luke, xviii. 10-14). The Son
of Men neither hears the prayers of the proud, nor heeds their indignation; He invites Himself, in spite of their murmurs, to the house of Zacheus, bringing with Him salvation and joy, and declaring the publican to be henceforth a true son of Abraham (St.
Luke, xix. 1-10). So much goodness and such universal mercy close against Him the narrow hearts of His fellow-citizens; they will not have Him to reign over them; but eternal Wisdom finds the lost groat, and there is great joy before the angels in heaven.
On the day of the sacred nuptials, the lowly and despised, and the repentant sinners, will sit down to the banquet prepared for others. In truth I say to you, there were many Widows in the days of Elias in Israel. . . and to none of them was Elias sent, but
to Sarepta of Sidon, to a widow woman. And there were many lepers in Israel at the time of Eliseus the prophet, and none of them was cleansed but Naaman the Syrian (St. Luke, iv. 25-27).
O Jesus, thy evangelist has won our hearts. We love Thee for having taken pity on our misery. We Gentiles were in deeper debt than Jerusalem, and therefore we owe Thee greater love in return for Thy pardon. We love Thee because Thy choicest graces are for Magdalene, that is, for us who are sinners, and are nevertheless called to the better part. We love Thee because Thou canst not resist the tears of mothers; but restorest to them, as at Naim, their dead children. In the day of treason, and abandonment, and denial, Thou didst forget Thine own injury to cast upon Peter that loving look, which caused him to weep bitterly. Thou turnedst away from Thyself the tears of those humble and true daughters of Jerusalem, who followed Thy painful footsteps up the heights of Calvary. Nailed to the cross, Thou didst implore pardon for Thy executioners. At the last hour, as God Thou promisedst paradise to the penitent thief, as Man Thou gavest back Thy Soul to Thy Father. Truly from beginning to end of this third Gospel appears Thy goodness and kindness, O God our Saviour!
St. Luke completed his work by writing, in the same correct style as his Gospel, the history of the first days of Christianity, of the introduction of the Gentiles into the Church, and of the great labours of their own apostle Paul. According to tradition he was an artist, as well as a man of letters; and with a soul alive to all the most delicate inspirations, he consecrated his pencil to the holiest use, and handed down to us the features of the Mother of God. It was an illustration worthy of the Gospel which relates the divine Infancy; and it won for the artist a new title to the gratitude of those who never saw Jesus and Mary in the flesh. Hence St. Luke is the patron of Christian art; and also of the medical profession, for in the holy Scripture itself he is said to have been a physician... He had studied all the sciences in his native city Antioch; and the brilliant capital of the east had reason to be proud of its illustrious son.
The Church borrows from St. Jerome the historical lessons of the feast. The just censure therein passed upon a certain apocryphal and romantic history of St. Thecla, in no way derogates from the universal veneration of east and west for the noble spiritual daughter of St. Paul.
From the book of St. Jerome, priest, on ecclesiastical writers.
Luke was a physician of Antioch, and, as is shown by his writings, was skilled in the Greek tongue. He was a disciple of the apostle Paul, and accompanied him in all his journeys. He also wrote a Gospel; wherefore the same Paul says of him: We have sent also with him the brother whose praise is in the Gospel through all the churches. And again to the Colossians: Luke the most dear physician saluteth you. And to Timothy: Only Luke is with me. He wrote another excellent work, called the Acts of the apostles, in which he relates the history of the Church, as far as Paul’s two years' sojourn at Rome, that is to the fourth year of Nero. From this circumstance we infer that the book was written at Rome.
Conseqently we class the journeys of Paul and Thecla and the whole fable of the baptized lion, among apocryphal writings. For is it possible that the apostle's inseparable companion should know everything concerning him except this one thing? Moreover Tertullian, who lived near to those times, relates that a certain priest in Asia, an admirer of Paul, was convicted by John of having written that book; which he confessed he had done out of love for Paul, and was on that account deposed. Some are of opinion that whenever Paul in his epistles says: According to my Gospel, he means that of Luke.
Luke, however, was instructed in the Gospel not only by the apostle Paul, who had never seen the Lord in the flesh, but also by the other apostles. This he declares in the beginning of his work, saying: According as they have delivered them unto us, who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word. He wrote his Gospel, then, from what he had heard, but the Acts of the apostles from what he had himself seen. He lived eighty-four years, and was never married. His body lies at Constantinople, whither it was translated from Achaia, together with the relics of St. Andrew the apostle, in the twentieth year of Constantine.
Another account of St. Luke.
The great apostle of the Gentiles, or rather the Holy Ghost by his pen, is the panegyrist of this glorious evangelist, and his own inspired writings are the highest standing, and most authentic commendation of his sanctity, and of those eminent graces which are a just subject of our admiration, but which human praises can only extenuate. St. Luke was a native of Antioch, the metropolis of Syria, a city famous for the agreeableness of its situation, the riches of its traffic, its extent, the number of its inhabitants, the politeness of their manners, and their learning and wisdom. Its schools were the most renowned in all Asia, and produced the ablest masters in all arts and sciences. St. Luke acquired a stock of learning in his younger years, which we are told he improved by his travels in some parts of Greece and Egypt. St. Jerom assures us he was very eminent in his profession, and St. Paul, by calling him his most dear physician, (Col, iv. 14) seems to indicate that he had not laid it aside. Besides his abilities in physic, he is said to have been very skilful in painting. The Menology of the Emperor Basil, compiled in 980, Nicephorus, Metaphrastes, and other modern Greeks quoted by F. Gretzer, in his dissertation on this subject, speak much of his excelling in this art, and of his leaving many pictures of Christ and the Blessed Virgin. Though neither the antiquity nor the credit of these authors is of great weight, it must be acknowledged, with a very judicious critic, that some curious anecdotes are found in their writings. In this particular, what they tell us is supported by the authority of Theodorus Lector, who lived in 518, and relutes that a picture of the Blessed Virgin painted by St. Luke was sent from Jerusalem to the Empress Pulcheria, who placed it in the church of Hodegorum which she built in her honour at Constantinople. Moreover, a very ancient inscription was found in a vault near the Church of St. Mary in viâ latâ in Rome, in which it is said of a picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary discovered there, “One of the seven painted by St. Luke.” Three or four such pictures are still in being; the principal is that placed by Paul V in the Burghesian chapel in St. Mary Major.
St. Luke was a proselyte to the Christian religion, but whether from Paganism or rather from Judaism is uncertain; for many Jews were settled in Antioch, but chiefly such as were called Hellenists, who read the Bible in the Greek translation of the Septuagint. St. Jerom observes from his writings that he was more skilled in Greek than in Hebrew, and that therefore he not only always makes use of the Septuagint translation, as the other authors of the New Testament who wrote in Greek do, but he refrains sometimes from translating words when the propriety of the Greek tongue would not bear it. Some think he was converted to the faith by St. Paul at Antioch; others judge this improbable, because that apostle no where calls him his son, as he frequently does his converts. St. Epiphanius makes him to have been a disciple of our Lord; which might be for some short time before the death of Christ, though this evangelist says he wrote his gospel from the relations of those “who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word.” (St. Luke, i. 2) Nevertheless, from these words many conclude that he became a Christian at Antioch only after Christ's ascension. Tertullian positively affirms that he never was a disciple of Christ whilst he lived on earth. No sooner was he enlightened by the Holy Ghost and initiated in the school of Christ, but he set himself heartily to learn the spirit of his faith, and to practise its lessons. For this purpose he studied perfectly to die to himself, and as the church says of him, “He always carried about in his body the mortification of the cross for the honour of the divine name.” He was already a great proficient in the habits of a perfect mastery of himself, and of all virtues, when he became St. Paul's companion in his travels and fellow labourer in the ministry of the gospel. The first time that in his history of the missions of St. Paul (Acts, xvi. 8, 9, 10) he speaks in his own name in the first person, is when that apostle sailed from Troas into Macedon, in the year 51, soon after St. Barnabas had left him, and St. Irenæus begins from that time the voyages which St. Luke made with St. Paul. Before this he had doubtless been far some time an assiduous disciple of that great apostle; but from this time he seems never to have left him unless by his order upon commissions for the service of the churches he had planted. It was the height of his ambition to share with that great apostle all his toils, fatigues, dangers, and sufferings. In his company he made some stay at Philippi in Macedon; then he travelled with him through all the cities of Greece, where the harvest every day grew upon their hands. St. Paul mentions him more than once as the companion of his travels; he calls him “Luke the beloved physician,” (Col, iv. 14) his “fellow labourer.” (Philem, i. 24) Interpreters usually take Lucius, whom St. Paul calls his kinsman, (Rom, xvi. 21) to be St. Luke, as the same apostle sometimes gives a Latin termination to Silas, calling him Sylvanus. Many with Origen, Eusebius, and St. Jerom say, that when St. Paul speaks of his own gospel, (Rom, ii. 16) he means that of St. Luke, though the passage may be understood simply of the gospel which St. Paul preached. He wrote this epistle in the year 57, four years before his first arrival at Rome.
St. Luke mainly insists in his gospel upon what relates to Christ's priestly office; for which reason the ancients, in accommodating the four symbolical representations, mentioned in Ezekiel, to the four evangelists, assigned the ox or calf as an emblem of sacrifices, to St. Luke. It is only in the Gospel of St. Luke that we have a full account of several particulars relating to the Annunciation of the mystery of the Incarnation to the Blessed Virgin, her visit to St. Elizabeth, the parable of the prodigal son, and many other most remarkable points. The whole is wrote with great variety, elegance, and perspicuity. An incomparable sublimity of thought and diction is accompanied with that genuine simplicity which is the characteristic of the sacred penman; and by which the divine actions and doctrine of our Blessed Redeemer are set off in a manner which in every word conveys his holy spirit, and unfolds in every tittle the hidden mysteries and inexhausted riches of the divine love and of all virtues to those who, with an humble and teachable disposition of mind, make these sacred oracles the subject of their assiduous devout meditation. The dignity with which the most sublime mysteries, which transcend all the power of words, and even the conception and comprehension of all created beings are set off without any pomp of expression, has in it something divine; and the energy with which the patience, meekness, charity, and beneficence of a God made man for us, are described, his divine lessons laid down, and the narrative of his life given, but especially the dispassionate manner in which his adorable sufferings and death are related, without the least exclamation or bestowing the least harsh epithet on his enemies, is a grander and more noble eloquence on such a theme, and a more affecting and tender manner of writing than the highest strains or the finest ornaments of speech could be. This simplicity makes the great actions speak themselves, which all borrowed eloquence must extenuate. The sacred penmen in these writings were only the instruments or organs of the Holy Ghost; but their style alone suffices to evince how perfectly free their souls were from the reign or influence of human passions, and in how perfect a degree they were replenished with all those divine virtues and that heavenly spirit which their words breathe.
About the year 56 St. Paul sent St. Luke with St. Titus to Corinth, with this high commendation, that his praise in the gospel resounded throughout all the churches. St. Luke attended him to Rome, whither he was sent prisoner from Jerusalem in 61. The apostle remained there two years in chains; but was permitted to live in a house which he hired, though under the custody of a constant guard; and there he preached to those who daily resorted to hear him. St. Luke was the apostle's faithful assistant and attendant during his confinement, and had the comfort to see him set at liberty in 63, the year in which this evangelist finished his Acts of the Apostles. This sacred history he compiled at Rome, by divine inspiration, as an appendix to his gospel, to prevent the false relations of those transactions which some published, and to leave an authentic account of the wonderful works of God in planting his church, and some of the miracles by which he confirmed it, and which were an invincible proof of the truth of Christ's resurrection and of his holy religion. Having in the first twelve chapters related the chief general transactions of the principal apostles in the first establishment of the church, beginning at our Lord's ascension, he from the thirteenth chapter almost confines himself to the actions and miracles of St. Paul, to most of which he had been privy and an eye-witness, and concerning which false reports were spread.
St. Luke did not forsake his master after he was released from his confinement. That apostle in his last imprisonment at Rome writes, that the rest had all left him, and that St. Luke alone was with him (II Tim, iv. 11). St. Epiphanius says, that after the martyrdom of St. Paul, St. Luke preached in Italy, Gaul, Dalmatia, and Macedon. By Gaul some understand Cisalpine Gaul, others Galatia. Fortunatus and Metaphrastus say he passed into Egypt, and preached in Thebais. Nicephorus says he died at Thebes in Bœotia, and that his tomb was shown near that place in his time; but seems to confound the evangelist with St. Luke Stiriote, a hermit of that country. St. Hippolytus says, St. Luke was crucified at Elæa in Peloponnesus near Achaia. The modern Greeks tell us, he was crucified on an olive tree. The ancient African Martyrology of the fifth age gives him the titles of Evangelist and Martyr. St. Gregory Nazianzen, St. Paulinus, and St. Gaudentius of Brescia, assure us that he went to God by martyrdom. Bede, Ado, Usuard, and Baronius in the Martyrologies only say he suffered much for the faith, and died very old in Bithynia. That he crossed the straits to preach in Bithynia is most probable, but then he returned and finished his course in Achaia; under which name Peloponnesus was then comprised. The modern Greeks say he lived fourscore and four years; which assertion has crept into St. Jerom's account of St. Luke, but is expunged by Martianay, who found those words wanting in all old manuscripts. The bones of St. Luke were translated from Patras in Achaia in 357, by order of the Emperor Constantius, and deposited in the Church of the Apostles at Constantinople, together with those of St. Andrew and St. Timothy. On the occasion of this translation some distribution was made of the relics of St. Luke; St. Gaudentius procured a part for his church at Brescia. St. Paulinus possessed a portion in St. Felix's Church at Nola, and with a part enriched a church which he built at Fondi. The magnificent Church of the Apostles at Constantinople was built by Constantine the Great, whose body was deposited in the porch in a chest of gold, the twelve apostles standing round his tomb. When this church was repaired by an order of Justinian, the masons found three wooden chests or coffins in which, as the inscriptions proved, the bodies of St. Luke, St. Andrew, and St. Timothy were interred. Baronius mentions that the head of St. Luke was brought by St. Gregory from Constantinople to Rome, and laid in the church of his monastery of St Andrew. Some of his relics are kept in the great Grecian monastery on Mount Athos in Greece.
Christ, our divine Legislator, came not only to be our model by his example, and our Redeemer by the sacrifice of his adorable blood, but also to be our doctor and teacher by his heavenly doctrine. He who, from the beginning of the world, had inspired and opened the mouths of so many prophets, vouchsafed to become himself our instructor, teaching us what we are to believe, and what we are to do, that through his redemption we may escape eternal torments and attain to everlasting life. With what earnestness and diligence, with what awful respect ought we to listen to, and assiduously meditate upon his divine lessons, which we read in his gospels, or hear from the mouths of his ministers, who announce to us his word, and in his name, or by his authority and commission. As by often iterating the same action the nail is driven into the wood, and not a stroke of the hammer is lost or superfluous; so it is by repeated meditation that the divine word sinks deep into our hearts. What fatigues and sufferings did it cost the Son of God to announce it to us? How many prophets, how many apostles, evangelists, and holy ministers has he sent to preach the same for the sake of our souls? How intolerable is our contempt of it? our sloth and carelessness in receiving it?
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Time after Pentecost, Vol. V, Edition 1910;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume II, 1806.
St. Luke, pray for us.