A Sonnet for St. Luke

St. Luke accompanied by his 'creature' the winged ox

Continuing my series of sonnets for the church year, here is a sonnet for St. Luke. When the series is published as a book I intend to gather the four evangelists from their respective days and bring their four sonnets together as a sequence. This sequence will be bound together by the image of the four living creatures round the throne of God and the tradition that each of these creatures represents both an aspect of Christ and one of the Four Evangelists. For a good account of this tradition click here. I am drawing my inspiration both from the opening page image of each Gospel in the Lindesfarne Gospels and also from the beautiful account of the four living creatures given by St. Ireneus, part of which I quote below. For the purpose of my ‘live bloggng’  of the festivals, in the course of this year, here is St. Luke, restored to the chronological sequence. As always you can hear the poem by clicking the ‘play’ button if it appears or clicking on the title of the poem.

‘...since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the “pillar and ground” of the Church is the Gospel and the spirit of life it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. From which fact, it is evident that the Word, the Artificer of all, He that sitteth upon the cherubim, and contains all things, He who was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by one Spirit. ‘  St. Irenaeus of Lyons  (ca. 120-202 AD)  –  Adversus Haereses 3.11.8


His gospel is itself a living creature

A ground and glory round the throne of God,

Where earth and heaven breathe through human nature

And One upon the throne sees it is good.

Luke is the living pillar of our healing,

A lowly ox, the servant of the four,

We turn his page to find his face revealing

The wonder, and the welcome of the poor.

He breathes good news to all who bear a burden

Good news to all who turn and try again,

The meek rejoice and prodigals find pardon,

A lost thief reaches paradise through pain,

The voiceless find their voice in every word

And, with Our Lady, magnify Our Lord.


Filed under christianity, imagination, literature

14 responses to “A Sonnet for St. Luke

  1. Sally P

    I love this. thank you

  2. Sally P

    and loved yesterday do – reposted to church website, hope you don’t mind. x

  3. From the city where St Luke is patron of the greatest painters of the Madonna. Just asked my students in History of Christianity to discuss the Antioch and Alexandrian schools of theology. You are Alexandrian through and through!

  4. Pingback: A Sonnet for St. Luke | Malcolm Guite | Gospel Feeds

  5. Lynn Severance

    I am elated to be reading that a book of your sonnets is in the planning – maybe even further along.
    I am especially fond of St. Luke and loved your tribute to him.
    Thank you for all of your sonnets – truly a joy to read and ponder.

  6. george

    Malcolm I love this….like Lynn I particularly love St Luke…
    thank you

  7. Eileen

    What a wonderful way to start the day….. reading a sonnet of St. Luke. Thanks for the lovely thoughts you’ve started.

  8. Dianne Mosley

    My chapter of the Order of St. Luke’s meets on Saturday in Bay Village, Ohio, and I intend to read your poem to the members. So glad you included healing in it. It will be our last meeting at St. Barnabas Anglican Church, as the Episcopal Diocese is taking our beautiful church building. We will meet in a high school on Sundays, and have offices and weekday activities in a generous Presbyterian church. I am going to the Southewest CSL weekend at Camp Allen next week. Remembering how great it was to have you there last year, as well as at Oxbridge this year.
    I look forward to each and every sonnet.

    • malcolmguite

      Thank you Diane I’d be honoured if you read the sonnet at your chapter meeting. I have happy memories of camp Allan last year and will be thinking of you all there this year. I’m sorry to hear about what’s happened at St. Barnabas and pray that you will find your faith and fellowship deepened as you begin the life of prayer in a new place. St. Luke for healing and St. Barnabas for encouragement ( for his name means son of encouragement or son of consolation!)

  9. Elizabeth

    It dawned on me today, reading your St. Luke sonnet just how ideal the sonnet form is to show the union of reason with faith! Of course my first response is a felt response; they touch my heart and affirm my faith. I’d like to STUDY your sonnets. I’m looking forward to having your book in my hand.

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks Elizabeth. The further I get into this sonnet cycle the more I am falling in love with the sonnet form itself, at once so concentrated and so flexible. Thanks for your encouraging comment about the book I am just doing the rounds of potential publishers now.

  10. Ed

    Beautiful – thank you!

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