5 ways to celebrate St Luke's Day

18th century Icon Russian Orthodox

Today, 18 October is the feast of Luke the Evangelist. He is also known as St Luke.

Are you marking this day? If so, how?

Here are 5 ways to celebrate Luke's Day:

1. Celebrate St Luke with food.

St Luke by Pordenone

Some people like to eat beef of St Luke's Day.

That is because of the tradition that since early Christianity Luke's Gospel (and its writer) has been identified with the winged bull or ox, one of the 4 living creatures around God's throne, described in John's vision in Revelation.

2. Celebrate St Luke with reading

Tradition attributes the Gospel of Luke and its sequel the Acts of the Apostles to Luke the physician and evangelist companion of Paul on some of his missionary journeys. Reading at least some of those books would be a fitting way to honour him. Luke's message is the message of Jesus - good news for all people, including people seen by others as outsiders. That message is of God's power to heal, save and set free. If you don't know where to start reading try Jesus' story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10: 25 - 37 or the 3 parables of lost things and people in Luke 15.

3. Celebrate St Luke with art

Stained Glass window in Christ Church, Dublin
Why celebrate with art or painting? That is because some people venerate St Luke as the patron saint of artists. The detail image shown above is from a stained glass window in Dublin's Christ Church Cathedral. It is in the Chapel of Laurence O'Toole and shows St Luke drawing or painting. It was created by Patrick Pollen in memory of his teacher Catherine O'Brien who died in 1963.

The idea of St Luke as an artist comes from a Christian tradition from the 8th century onward that St Luke painted the first Icons of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. There are legends supporting this idea and paintings showing St Luke painting the Madonna and Child. There are icons of the Virgin Mary and the Christ child whose origins are attributed to Luke. You can even find a catalogue of them here. Personally, I am highly sceptical that many or any can be traced back to Luke. The historical evidence is slim.

All the same, I think celebrating his day with art is a good idea. Assuming he was the author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament he certainly knew how to paint a picture with words. Just think of one of the best loved stories of the birth of Jesus. Luke writes how Joseph went to his family's town of Bethlehem to be registered, taking Mary,
"to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." (Luke 2: 5 - 7)

If the books attributed to St Luke help me to see who Jesus is (as they do) then he was an artist of words as well as an evangelist. His written words show an eye for detail and concern for carefully gathering evidence that you would expect for someone in his probable profession, that of physician. Would he have developed some skill in drawing as part of his study of anatomy or pathology or making medical records? 

4. Celebrate St Luke with prayer

As St Luke is the patron saint of physicians and surgeons it seems good to celebrate his day with special prayer for healing for the sick and wholeness for all people.

5. Celebrate St Luke with poetry

Here's a good place to start, a Sonnet for St Luke's Day.