On the eighteenth of this month [October], we commemorate the Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke.
Though at Emmaus I was prevented from seeing,
Luke now says, I see you clearly now O Christ.
On the eighteenth Luke reached his life’s end.
Luke the divine Evangelist was from the great Antioch, where he was a physician and most skillful in the art of painting. He was highly trained with well-rounded external wisdom, and educated in the Hebrew and Syriac dialect. Having gone to Thebes in Boetia as a physician during the reign of Emperor Titus Claudius in the year 42, he encountered the Holy Apostle Paul.* Accepting faith in Christ, he turned away from the error of his fathers. Wherefore from that moment he abandoned being a physician of the body, and became employed in treating the soul. At the suggestion of the Apostle Paul, he wrote his own holy Gospel and sent it to Governor Theophilos of Achaia, who believed in Christ.** Then he wrote the Acts of the Apostles, which he again sent to the same Theophilos. Having separated from Paul, he traveled throughout Greece, proclaiming the gospel of Christ. Returning once again to Thebes in Boetia, it is said that he reposed there in peace, at the old age of eighty.***
Following his death, God wanted to glorify His healer and servant Luke, so He rained upon his tomb collyrium, as a sign of his artistry as a physician.**** For this reason, the tomb of the divine Apostle became known to all people. Constantius, the son of Constantine the Great, transferred the relic of this Apostle from Thebes to Constantinople, by means of Saint Artemios the great duke of Egypt and Martyr. It was treasured in the Church of the Holy Apostles beneath the Holy Altar, together with the honorable relics of Andrew and Timothy the Apostles. This placement of the relic is celebrated on the twentieth of June.
It is said that this Luke was the first to depict in three icons the Lady Theotokos, bearing our Lord Jesus Christ on her lap, made from wax and mastich and paints. These he offered to her while she was alive on the earth, to see if she approved of them. The Mother of the Lord received them, and said: "May the grace of the one born from me be with them through me." He also painted the icons of the Holy Chief Apostles. And from that time, he gave to the world this good and pious and all-honorable work, which is to paint holy icons.*****
* There is a disagreement among historians and writers regarding the Apostle Luke. Some say that Luke went to Jerusalem while the Lord was alive on the earth and served Him as one of His seventy disciples, and it was he who accompanied Cleopas on the road to Emmaus following the resurrection of the Lord and became an eye-witness of the resurrection of the Lord. However, the present Synaxarion follows the tradition of John Chrysostom who says that Luke never met the Lord while He was alive on the earth, but instead he was a disciple of the Apostle Paul. The latter view is most likely true, as testified by Luke himself in his Gospel: "Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word" (Lk. 1:1-2). This information he probably received when he accompanied Paul to Jerusalem, as mentioned in Acts 21:17-18.
** According to one tradition, Luke wrote his Gospel fifteen years after the Ascension of the Lord, while residing in the cave now known as Great Cave Monastery in Kalavryta. Another tradition says he wrote it while in Alexandria, while another says it was in Rome, and another says in Jerusalem.
*** While writers such as Gregory the Theologian and Nikephoros Kallistos say Luke was martyred by being crucified to an olive tree in Thebes, others such as Elias of Crete and Nikephoros Gregoras say he reposed in peace, either at the age of eighty or eighty-four.
**** Collyrium is an antique term for a lotion or liquid wash used as a cleanser for the eyes, particularly in diseases of the eye. The word collyrium comes from the Greek κολλύριον, which means "eye-salve". Pre-modern medicine distinguished two kinds of collyriums: the one liquid, the other dry. Liquid collyriums were composed of ophthalmic powders, or waters, such as rose-water, plantain-water, that of fennel, eyebright, etc, in which was dissolved tutty, white vitriol, or some other proper powder. Dry collyriums were pastilles of Rhasis, sugar-candy, iris, tutty prepared and blown into the eye with a little pipe. Saint Luke became especially known for curing eye diseases.
***** One of these three icons, known as the Hodegetria, was sent from Palestine to Constantinople by the Empress Eudocia as a gift to her sister-in-law Pulcheria, who placed it in the Monastery of the Hodegon that she founded. It became the source of many miracles for the people of Constantinople, though it was likely destroyed after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453. There are approximately seventy icons of the Theotokos attributed to the hand of the Apostle Luke. Among these are the ones located at the Monastery of the Great Cave in Kalavryta, the Monastery of Kykkos in Cyprus, and the Monastery of Soumela in Pontus.
Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Holy Apostle and Evangelist Luke, intercede with our merciful God, that He may grant to our souls the forgiveness of our sins.
Kontakion in the Second Tone
Let us praise divine Luke, the star of the Church, herald of piety and proclaimer of mysteries; for the Word Who alone knows the secrets of hearts, has chosen him with Paul, as a teacher of the nations.
O Luke, discourser of God, blessed is thy right hand, for by it two sacred writings of the word of God were recorded for us, the faithful, together with the august icon of the Mother of God.