Today is the feast day of St. Luke, beloved physician of St. Paul and the author of the third Gospel. St. Luke is also considered the patron saint of painters and artists. Therefore, I thought that I would talk about this latter subject today.
According to Dr. Pius Parsch, St. Luke’s association of artists goes back to the vivid portrait of the Virgin Mary that is contained in his Gospel. This led to the belief that Our Lady had allowed herself to be painted by St. Luke. Hence the story was used to explain the writing of a number of miracle-working icons of the Blessed Virgin over the course of the centuries.
A rather elaborate story, which I am sure some of you are familiar with, concerns the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa. According to the story, St. Luke painted this icon on a table top that had been made by St. Joseph with the assistance of the Child Jesus. The icon then was in Constantinople for a number of years before being transferred to Poland. Of course, many of you know where the story goes from here.
Yet Our Lady of Czestochowa is not the only icon that is attributed to St. Luke. Far from it! There are many miracle-working icons in eastern Europe and Greece that are attributed to St. Luke as well. Did he paint them all? I honestly do not know, but it is entirely possible that several survived the ravages of the iconoclastic heresy and centuries of persecution.
Even if we disregard St. Luke as a painter, we should realize that his Gospel is among the most vivid. According to Parsch, this comes from St. Luke’s knowledge about Our Lord that he gathered from people who knew Him. Certainly, he went to the Apostle John and the Blessed Virgin to ask them questions. He might also have spoken with some other apostles including St. Peter to get their perspectives on things. All of these things together create a Gospel that is very different from the other three.
Whereas St. Mark focuses on the suffering servant, St. John on the Word, and St. Matthew on the fulfillment of the Prophecies, St. Luke focuses on Jesus as the healer and physican of our souls. This is borne out in the parables of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son. These stories teach us about God’s forgiveness and love for us as well as His willingness to heal our souls and bodies. Indeed, St. Luke’s Gospel has been called one of the most beautiful books ever written. Can we really argue with this? I don’t think so.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Joseph, pray for us!