10.18
Feast of St. Luke

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Painter's hands

We believe Luke was a physician, because when St. Paul was in prison, Luke – who had accompanied Paul on some of his missionary journeys – stayed close by to care for him. Paul called him “the beloved physician.” But the tradition also holds that Luke was an artist. He is sometimes shown painting a portrait of the Virgin Mary.

Luke is also the author of the Book of Acts.

It makes sense that Luke would be shown painting Mary, because, in his gospel, he paints–with words–the most complete picture we have of Mary. If Matthew tells us about the conception and birth of Jesus through Joseph’s eyes, Luke tells the same story through the eyes of Jesus’ mother. We learn about her cousin, Elizabeth, and the birth of her cousin’s son, John. We learn about the annunciation and hear Mary’s hymn of praise and obedience to God. We learn about Jesus’ presentation in the temple and his circumcision. Read Luke 1:1 through Luke 2:52 for the story of the birth of Jesus as recounted by Luke.

Luke as iconographer

Luke is also the author of the Book of Acts, and, like Luke’s detailed portrait of Mary in his gospel, this is the most complete portrait ever drawn of the early church. Thanks to Luke we have the story of how a frightened, hidden church was filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit and began the work of bringing the gospel to every land, and every people, in every time and in every tongue. Luke never met Jesus on earth, but his writing helps us understand how close, how intimate we can be with the risen Christ. Those who walked with Jesus were blessed, but so are we who know him through prayer, and through his Body and Blood, both in the Eucharist and in those believers who, with us, make up the whole Body of Christ.