Friday, October 19, 2012

The Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke

Dear Parish Faithful,

The Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Thoephilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed.”  (LK. 1:1-4)

That, of course, is the well-known introduction by St. Luke the Evangelist to the third of the canonical Gospels that he compiled with great care and a determination to present the “truth” of the ministry and then the death and resurrection of Christ.  And it is the holy apostle and evangelist Luke that we commemorate today, October 18.  From the Menologion, or calendar of the year providing a brief account of the saints and feasts of the Church, we read this succinct entry about St. Luke:

This Apostle was an Antiochean, a physician by trade, and a disciple and companion of Paul.  He wrote his Gospel in Greek after Matthew and Mark, after which he wrote the Acts of the Apostles, and dedicated both works to Theophilus, who, according to some, was Governor of Achaia (i.e. Greece).  He lived some eighty-six years and died in Achaia, perhaps in Patras, the capital of this district.  His emblem is the calf, the third symbolic beast mentioned by Ezekiel (1:10), which is a symbol of Christ’s sacrificial and priestly office, as St. Irenaeus says.

The dismissal hymn in Tone 5 (troparion) to St. Luke praises him for his service to Christ and to the Church:

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.

And the kontakion in Tone 2:

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!

At Vespers yesterday evening, one of the apostikha stood out as an excellent summary of the contents of St. Luke’s Gospel, outlining some of the unique features of this particular Gospel and then moving on to mention St. Luke’s role as the Apostle Paul’s traveling companion.  Although highly rhetorical as usual, this particular aposticha remains as a good teaching tool:

Rejoice, blameless writer of the Gospel of joy;
you have recorded for us the conception and preaching of the Baptist;
the wondrous Annunciation to the Mother of the Lord;
the ineffable Incarnation and Birth of the Word Who came forth from her womb;
His temptations, miracles, and parables,
His Passion, Cross and death,
the glory of His risen body recognized in the breaking of the bread,
His glorious Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
As a faithful witness you compiled the Acts of the Apostles.
You were Paul’s companion in travel and his great consolation,
The beholder of divine mysteries and light of the Church.
Guard us all, O glorious healer!

Is everyone able to identify all of the references above?  Is everyone able to enumerate some of the miracles and parables that are unique to St. Luke, meaning that they cannot be found in any other of the remaining three Gospels?  Is everyone aware of some of the different details found only in St. Luke’s account of the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ?  Does everyone know the events compiled by the evangelist in the Acts of the Apostles?  As the years go by and as we continue to read the Gospels over and over, I believe that we begin to distinguish between Sts. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – their style, their particular emphases and approach, and the material that is found in only one of the Gospels.  The point is not about “passing a test” concerning our knowledge of the “facts.” . (Though, periodically, the “Bible” as a category does shows up on Jeopardy). The point is rather to have a scriptural mind that is very familiar with the Gospels precisely because we turn to them on a daily basis for our immersion in the “joy” that is found there because they make Christ alive to us.

I recall many years ago an interview of William F. Buckley by Charlie Rose.  Buckley was asked what books and writers have had the greatest influence on him, and he unhesitatingly responded:  "Matthew, Mark, Luke and John."  An awkward silence ensued, and Charlie Rose quickly changed the subject!  So, who are the writers and what are the books that have most deeply influenced our thinking, our worldview, and our approach to life?

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