Apostle and Evangelist
Today is the feast day of St. Matthew, the “author” of the gospel of Matthew. I put the word “author” in quotes here because he was, of course, the person who wrote the words of his gospel, but he is also something more. Christians don’t, generally, believe that the Bible was written in the same fashion as other pieces of literature. St Matthew is not, say, just like Shakespeare, or Wordsworth, or C.S. Lewis. Being an evangelist, we believe, is more than just writing down facts or imagining what something was like and making a story about it. Being an evangelist is being in the presence of God in a special way while writing. That’s why we call Matthew a saint and commemorate him, and other evangelists, on their feast days.
It’s for this reason that I chose the image above. It’s from a book called the Ebbo Gospels, an illuminated manuscript from the 9th century. This image of St. Matthew is, I believe, a wonderful testament to what it meant to be an evangelist. Here, Matthew looks wind-swept, his hair wild and all in a tussle. He’s bent over his small table, his eyes wide as if he is amazed at what he is writing. In all, he seems caught by the Holy Spirit, fully present himself but also completely in the presence of God.
So St. Matthew was imagined 1,200 years ago. It’s not a photo of him, surely; it’s just an image. I do believe, however, that it is an image of something true: of a man fully within the task and hope laid upon him. May we all see our Lord in the work given to us.
Our readings for today are:
2 Timothy 3:14-17
You can click here for the readings.