October 17, 2016

Did St. Luke Write the First Icon of the Mother of God?

Saint Luke painting icon.

Beginning in medieval times, popular piety, credits Saint Luke with writing the first icons of Mary. Upon seeing his depiction, our Lady is alleged to have said, “Let the grace of Him Who was born of Me and My mercy be with these Icons.” In The Liturgical Year, Dom Gueranger O.S.B. presents with cogent eloquence Luke the artist "According to tradition he was an artist, as well as a man of letters; and with a soul alive to all the most delicate inspirations, he consecrated his pencil to the holiest use, and handed down to us the features of the Mother of God. It was an illustration worthy of the Gospel which relates to the divine Infancy; and it won for the artist a new title to the gratitude of those who never saw Jesus and Mary in the flesh. Hence St. Luke is the patron of Christian art."

There are several legends concerning Luke’s writing of icons. According to one, an angel presented Luke with three boards on which he made three pictures of Mary. Another contends he made seven. Numerous monasteries and churches throughout the centuries have claimed to possess these sacred images.

Perhaps St. Luke, a man of tremendous learning and ability, really was the artist of legend? The tens of icons attributed to him from around the world would mark him as a gifted and prodigious iconographer — with abilities like none other.

Unfortunately, there is no evidence that St. Luke wrote icons. Nonetheless, his vivid witness has led countless souls to love Christ and the ways of God. Lord God, who chose St. Luke to reveal by his preaching and writings the mystery of your love for the poor, grant that those who already glory in your name may persevere as one, and that all nations may merit to see your eternal salvation.

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