Plinio Corręa de Oliveira
Who Painted the First Picture
of Our Lady?
Let us read a short biographical sketch about Saint Luke that will give us elements to comment on his life and works.
Luke was born in Antioch to a pagan family. He undoubtedly converted in the year 40. Having met him at Troas, Saint Paul took him as a companion on his second trip to Philippi in 49. Later, Luke definitively joined the Apostle and no longer separated from him. After Saint Paul’s death, Luke left Rome, his remains have since disappeared, and we know nothing more about him for sure.
In the year 60, he used his literary talent to write his Gospel to draw Gentiles to the goodness and mercy of the Lord. A little later, he wrote the Acts of the Apostles. According to tradition, he was also an artist and handed down to us the features of the Mother of God. It is not certain that he died by shedding his blood for Christ, but the Church honors him as a martyr because of the mortification and suffering he endured throughout his life for the sake of the Gospel.
From Saint Luke’s known and certain biographical data, we can see how Our Lord lavished graces upon his soul. The saint was a companion of Saint Paul, the writer of a Gospel and the author of the Acts of the Apostles.
These great tasks allow us to see his moral qualities. To be chosen by Saint Paul as a fellow traveler and disciple is proof of his great value. As the disciple par excellence, Saint Luke helped Saint Paul develop his apostolic endeavors. He stood alongside Saint Paul and his new disciples and met with his entire approval. We must also consider he had such an outstanding understanding of the life of Our Lord that he gathered all the facts together and wrote the Gospel.
His qualities further shone as the sole person who had the glory and honor of writing the Acts of the Apostles, which was the inspired and historical Biblical book about the beginning of the Church’s life!
We can suppose him to be a man of extraordinary apostolic zeal and a true vessel of the Holy Ghost. We can know his excellent qualities by analyzing the qualities of each work. Since the qualities of an effect are in its cause, the qualities of a book are found more prominently in its author. Indeed, the author is always worth more than the book.
Although the true author of these New Testament books is the Holy Ghost, Saint Luke still wrote them and can be considered their author, although inspired by the latter. Thus, we are at a loss for words to praise this man.
He is also known for his great devotion to Our Lady. As an artist, he is credited with creating one of the oldest paintings of Our Lady, venerated today in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.
Imagine if you were the first artist on earth to paint a picture representing Our Lady. What a wonderful scene it must have been! Think of Our Lady praying, and Saint Luke secretly painting her. He virtuously “stole” a bit of that reality of the Queen of Heaven and Earth to put it on a canvas! All the angels in heaven must have smiled as Our Lord blessed him from heaven for fixing Our Lady’s likeness on a painting for the benefit of Christendom throughout the ages.
The consideration of all these things leaves us without words to praise this great saint. However, we do well to look upon him. In so doing, our eyes can at least admire something of his light. Thus, our admiration can serve to instill in us, a little of Saint Luke’s excellent qualities.
This text was taken from a meeting of Prof. Plinio Corręa de Oliveira on October 18, 1971. It has been slightly adapted and edited for publication.