The Liturgical Home: The Feast of St. Luke the Evangelist

By

The Feast of St. Luke, celebrated on October 18th, invites Christians around the world to honor the life and contributions of this beloved saint and evangelist. As the author of one of the four Gospels and the Book of Acts, St. Luke leaves a legacy not only on the Christian calendar but also on the hearts of those who treasure the Scriptures.

Luke’s Background

St. Luke, often referred to as Luke the Evangelist, was a physician from the city of Antioch in Syria. He was highly educated and, according to tradition, an artist and a man of letters. St. Paul converted him, and he became one of the earliest Christian missionaries. He traveled extensively with St. Paul, remaining with him while he was in prison and even until Paul died in Rome. In the final chapter of 2 Timothy, St. Paul touchingly writes, “Only Luke is with me” (2 Tim. 4:11). 

Sponsored

He is one of the Four Evangelists, or Gospel writers, and is credited with writing the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, collectively known as Luke-Acts. He is said to have gathered eyewitness accounts before writing his account, making his Gospel more historical in nature. His unique perspective and meticulous attention to detail make his writings invaluable sources of early Christian history and theology.

Iconography

Church tradition credits Luke as being the first iconographer or painter of icons. Tradition holds that he was a skilled painter and created one of the earliest images of the Virgin Mary. He is said to have painted many icons of the Virgin Mary and Child and of St. Peter and St. Paul. There are several churches around the world claiming to have an icon painted by St. Luke. The St. Thomas Christians of India claim to have one of the Theotokos icons that St. Luke painted and that St. Thomas brought to India. This is why, in the cities of late medieval Europe, guilds that protected painters were known as the “Guilds of St. Luke.”

Later Life and Legacy

Luke seems to have died at the age of 84 in Greece. According to tradition, St. Luke’s tomb was originally in Thebes, and his relics were transferred to Constantinople in the year 357.

In iconography, St. Luke often appears with a winged ox or bull, a symbol originating from the four living creatures in Ezekiel 1. The early church fathers believed these living creatures (also found in Revelation) symbolized the four Gospel writers. The Catholic Encyclopedia states that St. Luke is always represented by the bull or ox, the sacrificial animal, because “his Gospel begins with the account of Zachary, the priest, the father of John the Baptist.”

The Significance of the Gospel of Luke and Acts

The Gospel of Luke is cherished for its compassionate portrayal of Jesus Christ as the Savior who welcomes the marginalized, heals the brokenhearted, and calls all to repentance. Luke’s emphasis on Jesus’ parables, miracles, and interactions with women and the poor highlights the universality of God’s love and grace.

Unique Features of Luke’s Gospel

While sharing many stories and teachings found in the other Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), the Gospel of Luke has distinct characteristics and content that set it apart. Also, unlike Matthew and John, St. Luke was not a disciple of Jesus. His methodology is unique in that he “carefully investigated everything from the beginning” (Lk. 1:3). St. Luke often includes specific historical, geographical, and cultural details in his Gospel, such as accurately describing towns and cities and correctly naming various officials.

St. Luke provides the most detailed account of the birth and early life of Jesus, including Zechariah and Elizabeth, the Annunciation to Mary, the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, the birth of John the Baptist, the nativity of Jesus in Bethlehem, the angelic hosts appearing to the shepherds, the meeting with Simeon and Anna, and Jesus as a boy. Famous songs like the Magnificat (Mary’s Song, Lk. 1:46–55), the Benedictus (Zechariah’s Song, Lk. 1:68-76), and the Nunc dimittis (Simeon’s Song, Lk. 2:29–23) are unique to Luke. The Benedictus appears in our liturgy for Morning Prayer and the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis are featured during  Evening Prayer. Luke also gives us six miracles and eighteen parables, including the Parables of the Prodigal Son (Lk. 15:11-15), which does not appear in the other Gospels.

Luke strongly emphasizes Jesus’ concern for the poor, women, sinners, and social outcasts. Many stories and parables in Luke emphasize this theme, such as the Parable of the Good Samaritan and the Parable of the Prodigal Son. 

Acts: The Sequel to Luke

The Acts of the Apostles, often considered the sequel to the Gospel of Luke, traces the early history of the Christian Church. It narrates the spread of the gospel, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the missionary journeys of Paul. Acts underscore the crucial role played by the Holy Spirit in empowering believers to carry the message of Christ to the ends of the earth.

Ways to Celebrate the Feast of St. Luke:

  • Read the Magnificat (Song of Mary) or the Nunc dimittis (Song of Simeon) in the Bible. St. Luke is the only Gospel writer that includes these beautiful songs.
  • Watch an overview of the Luke/Acts series from The Bible Project.
  • Since St. Luke was a painter, paint a picture of the Virgin Mary with Jesus. 
  • In Venice, Italy, they have a proverb that says that pumpkins go stale on St. Luke’s Day. Make sure to eat something with pumpkins in it!
  • Eat something with sour cream in it. In Scotland, it was traditional to eat “sour cakes.” People would make these from fermented oats and then eat them with sour cream. 
  • Enjoy the weather. Lovely summer-like days usually occur around his feast day in the northern hemisphere. We call these days “St. Luke’s Little Summer.” Tradition has it that St. Luke’s Day did not receive as much attention as St. John’s Day and Michaelmas. Therefore, to keep from being forgotten, St. Luke presented us with some golden days to cherish before the coming of winter.
  • In Impruneta, Italy, they hold the “La Fiera di San Luca,” one of Europe’s oldest surviving livestock fairs. The origins go back a thousand years to a time when the shepherds migrated from the mountains to the valley and stopped to trade cattle.
  • Since the symbol for St. Luke is an ox, people traditionally serve beef on this day. We are making my grandmother’s incredible pot roast for dinner!

My Grandmother’s Pot Roast

Ingredients:

  • 1 Chuck Roast
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bag of baby carrots
  • 1/2 bag of potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 can of cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can of water
  • 1 packet of Lipton onion soup mix
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Liberally season the chuck roast with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven. When the oil shimmers, add the roast and sear on all sides. Once the roast is seared, remove the Dutch oven from the heat. Add the carrots, potatoes, cream of mushroom soup, a can of water, and the soup mix packet. Cover the Dutch oven and bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Reduce heat to 250 degrees and continue cooking for four more hours.


Image: Window from the Church of SS Mary and Lambert, Stonham Aspal, Suffolk. Photographed by Kevin Wailes, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Author

Ashley Tumlin Wallace

Ashley Tumlin Wallace, the author of the Liturgical Home series of books and articles at Anglican Compass, is a homeschooling mom of four and the wife of an Anglican priest. She and her family live in the panhandle of Florida.

View more from Ashley Tumlin Wallace

Comments

Please comment with both clarity and charity!

Subscribe to Comments
Notify of

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments