The Feastday of Saint Luke the Evangelist and Apostle-October 18

Apostle and Evangelist Luke

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


Apolytikion (Dismissal) Hymn. Tone Five

Let us praise with sacred songs the Holy Apostle Luke, the recorder of the Joyous Gospel of Christ, And the scribe of the Acts of the Apostles, For his writings are a testimony of the Church of Christ: He is the Physician of human weaknesses and infirmities. He heals the wounds of our souls, And constantly intercedes for our salvation.

Kontakion. Tone Four

You became a disciple of God the Word, With Paul you enlightened all the world, Casting out its darkness by composing the Holy Gospel of Christ.

Kontakion. Tone Two

Let us praise the godly Luke: He is the true preacher of piety, The orator of ineffable mysteries and the star of the Church, For the Word who alone knows the hearts of men, Chose him, with the wise Paul to be a teacher of the Gentiles!


Saint Luke, the Holy Apostle and Evangelist, whose feast day is observed on October 18th, is called "beloved physician" by Saint Paul and "Paul's disciple" by Saint John Chrysostom. St. Luke has left us two New Testament books, namely, his Gospel (according to some accounts this took place around 60 AD) and the Acts of the Apostles. His Gospel covers over 30 years of Jesus' earthly life, while the Acts covers over 30 years of Church life from its beginning. In Acts 1:1, St. Luke explains that in his Gospel he has dealt with "all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day when He was taken up, i.e., until His Ascension into heaven."

Saint Luke, was of Greek origin born in the Hellenistic city of Antioch, and was extremely educated. His studies included Greek philosophy, medicine, and art in his youth. He was also a professional physician. Saint Luke came to Jerusalem where he came to believe in the Lord. He and Cleopas met the Resurrected Lord on the road to Emmaus (St. Luke 24).

Grieving over the death of His Master and in doubt concerning His resurrection, of which the myrrh-bearing women had informed him. St. Luke set out from Jerusalem for Emmaus in the company of Cleopas, another disciple of the Lord. Along the road to that town he was accounted worthy to become the traveling companion of Him Who is "the way, the truth and the life". Both disciples were walking and conversing with one another when Jesus Himself overtook them and walked with them. The Lord appeared to them, as the Evangelist Mark relates, "in another form" (St. Mark 16:12), and not in the form in which they had known Him before. Moreover, by the special providence of God, "their eyes were holden" (St. Luke 24:16), that they might not recognize the Lord Who had appeared to them. They supposed that their Companion was one of the pilgrims who had come to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover.

Then He said to them: "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?" And, beginning with Moses, the Lord Christ explained to them passages from all the prophets that told of Him in the Scriptures. Thus, conversing with the Lord, the disciples drew near to Emmaus without being aware of it. And since His conversation was pleasing to them, and their Companion made as if to journey further, they besought Him to remain with them, saying: "Abide with us; for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent."

Therefore He entered the town and sojourned with them in a certain house. When He reclined with them to dine, He took a loaf of bread from the table and, blessing it, broke it and gave it to them. No sooner did the Lord do this than His disciples immediately recognized Him. In all probability, the Lord had performed this action in the presence of His disciples previously; moreover, they may have recognized Him from the wounds made by the nails that had pierced His hands. But at that moment, the Lord vanished from before their eyes, and they said to one another: "Did not our hearts burn within us, while He talked with us along the way, and while He opened to us the Scriptures?"

Desiring to share their joy with the other disciples of the Lord, St. Luke and St. Cleopas rose immediately from their meal and set out for Jerusalem. There they found the Apostles and the other disciples assembled in one house, and, of course, they announced to them straightway that Christ had risen from the dead, and that they had seen Him. For their part, the Apostles reassured them, relating that the Lord had truly risen and had appeared to Simon. Then St. Luke and St. Cleopas recounted to the Apostles in detail all that had transpired with them on the way, and how they had recognized Christ the Lord in the breaking of the bread"  (Partaking of Holy Communion, we also recognize Christ in "the breaking of the bread".)

Saint Luke's Gospel is dedicated to a certain Theophilus who was a high ranking Achaian (ancient Greece) government official. Indirectly, however, St. Luke's Gospel was intended for the Gentile converts. St. Luke wrote to confirm in their minds the truth of what they had received in the way of religious instruction before their Baptism. Saint Luke wishes now to give them a deeper and more complete knowledge of the teachings of their newly adopted religion and at the same time to show them on what a firm basis their faith is founded. Saint Luke also hoped that many other Gentiles, particularly members of the roman court circle, would become amenable to embracing the Christian faith.

Since St. Luke's Gospel was written for Christians of a Gentile background its major theme is the universality of the Gospel Message. Salvation is described as "a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles" (2:32). At the end of the Gospel, the risen Lord instructs His disciples to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins "to all nations" (24:47). More than the other Gospels, it, thus, underscores for the believer, the significance of mission and evangelization.

Anxious to write an orderly about Christ's lifetime on earth, St. Luke, as he tells Theophilus, had for a long time sought out eyewitnesses of the events he wished to record. As St. Luke himself was not one of the original disciples of Jesus, his gospel is anchored on the testimony of these witnesses. His sources, as is clear from the prologue to his Gospel (1:1-4) were both written and oral in nature. There is no doubt that St. Luke consulted the narrative that "many" had written of Christ before writing his own Gospel. At times, therefore, in icons of Saint Luke, he is shown copying from scrolls, which served as resource material for his own gospel project. In one such icon, written for the Royal Doors of a church in France, the iconographer, Fr. Gregory Kroug (1909-1969)-born in Russia but immigrated to France where he lived the rest of his life shows St. Luke as resembling the Apostle Paul. A disciple of St. Paul, St. Luke accompanied him on parts of St. Paul's 2nd and 3rd missionary journeys, and went to Rome with him where Saint Paul died as a martyr for his Christian faith. For that same icon project, Fr. Kroug shows the Evangelist Mark, also copying from scrolls, as resembling St. Peter whose disciple he was. Traditionally, in Royal Door icons of St. Luke, the figure of a calf is included as a symbol of Christ's sacrificial and priestly office, which St. Luke so aptly has recorded in his Gospel.

Saint Luke also heavily on the oral tradition of the early Church, which he obtained especially from the women disciples of our Lord. These Christ ministering women were his main source of information for the first two chapters of his Gospel which the theologians refer to as the "Infancy Gospel" dealing with the stories and events connected with the births of Saint John the Baptist and the Christ Child.

After Saint Paul's martyrdom and death, St. Luke left Rome, traveling through Libya and into Egypt, preaching about Christ. Continuing his missionary work, he then traveled to the far distant shores of Northwest Asia Minor, to Bithynia and from there to Voeotia, inland Greece, where he founded several local church communities, ordaining priests and deacons to serve their spiritual needs. A bachelor, he was able to travel from place to place, and in the process he healed many that were infirm in body and soul. Saint Luke was 86 years old when he had fallen asleep in the Lord in Achaia. When he died there flowed from his holy body a secretion or balm which, when used as an ointment, healed those suffering from eye diseases. Miracles of healing continued at his gravesite which the faithful from nearby and afar would visit, praying to him to be healed of their diseases. Years later when the persecution of Christian ceased, the holy relics of Saint Luke were moved to Constantinople, on orders issued in 357 AD by Constantius, the son of Constantine the Great. His holy relics now lie there, buried beneath the altar in the church of the Holy Apostles, together with the holy relics of the Apostles Andrew and Timothy. They were taken during the Fourth Crusade to Italy by the Latins and recently returned to Greece.

Our Orthodox Church Tradition speaks of Saint Luke as the Church's first iconographer. It was Saint Luke, we are informed, who wrote the first icon of the Holy Theotokos, bearing in her arms the Christ Child. He then wrote two other icons of Her and brought them to Her to learn whether she was pleased with them. When She saw the icon, She said: "May my grace and that of Him Who was born of me be with these icons." Saint Luke, also, wrote icons of the Saints Peter and Paul. Thus, the sacred art of iconography by which our Orthodox churches are adorned had its beginning with Saint Luke.

The first holy icon of the Theotokos is known as the icon of the Directress or Hodigitria, mentioned in the Paraklesis (Supplication) service 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."

Saint Luke's interest in iconography, again, according to Holy Tradition was aroused by the miraculous not-made-by-hand image of Christ. Those reading this article may already know the story but it is worthwhile repeating. At the time when our Lord Jesus Christ was teaching and preaching on earth, the fame of His healing reached the ears of an ailing Persian prince named Abgar. Though many doctors were consulted, nobody could cure Abgar. In a dream, he saw Jesus of Nazareth and dreamed that he was healed by Him. So when he awoke, Abgar began to think how he could reach Him. Too ill to travel the distance required, Abgar called his court artist and ordered him to go to Palestine, find this man Jesus and to bring back a likeness of Him. Abgar felt that even by looking at His image he would be healed. The artist went and found Jesus among a great crowd which had gathered around Him to heal their sick and hear Him preach. The artist started on his assignment but try as he would he could not paint the likeness of Christ. Christ, of course, knew all the time what the painter was attempting to do and why, but He let him try. At last Christ sent His disciple to call the artist to Himself and asked what he was about. The artist fell at Jesus' feet and told Him about Abgar. Then Our Lord took a white linen cloth, pressed it to His Holy Face and gave it to Abgar's court artist. And there, imprinted on the cloth was the beautiful image of Jesus' Holy Face. The artist, there upon, hastened home with the precious cloth. When Abgar saw the image of Christ's Holy Face imprinted on the cloth he fell down on his knees, prayed before it and was healed. Soon thereafter, Abgar became a Christian. In the Kontakion hymn for his feast day, Saint Luke is referred to as "a genuine disciple of the Word of God. May we, through his intercession, be enlightened and inspired to live by it.

The praises of Saint Luke as a writer may seem excessive, particularly since he is one of many authors represented in the New Testament, chief among whom are Saint Matthew (the man), Saint Mark (the lion), and St. John (the eagle). Among these, the fourth, St. Luke, suffers in comparison with the title "St. Luke" (the calf). But out of the Twenty-Seven Books comprising to have excelled beyond the others in expressiveness, historical method, sensitivity of narrative, and idiomatic phrasing. His emblem, the calf, the third symbolical beast mentioned by Ezekiel (1:10), which is a symbol of Christ's Sacrificial and Priestly Office, as pointed out by Saint Irenaeus.

The patron Saint of physicians and artists. Saint Luke is surrounded by many legends and traditions that have not withstood the test of time. The discouraged accounts of his martyrdom must now give way to the actual facts of his life.

Scripture readings for the feast are the following: At the Divine Liturgy: Epistle Lesson, Colossians 4:5-11, 14-18; Gospel Lesson: St. Luke 10:16-21.



The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George