St. Matthew composed his gospel primarily for the Jews of his day. In all likelihood, Matthew was a despised man. He was a tax collector (Matt. 9:9), which garnered as much admiration then as now. Both his Greek name (Matthew, which means “gift of Jehovah”) and his Hebrew name, Levi (Mark 2:13-14, Luke 5:27-28) rooted him in Jewish heritage. Yet, there he was, a Jew working for the Roman government.
Stratford Caldecott’s 160-page new book Beauty in the Word has proven difficult for me to finish, and I mean that as a sincere compliment.
There are, we generally believe, “math people” and “non-math people” – or to put a finer point on it, there are math people and there are “humanities people”. The math people enjoy equations, technology, pocket protectors, and comic book conventions. The humanities people attend Renaissance festivals, enjoy Shakespearean insults, despise popular books, and often lurk in coffeehouses. At least, those are a few of the stereotypes.
“Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost.” Dante’s Divine Comedy opens hauntingly with good reason - the poet had received a death sentence in his home city, Florence, and was faced with execution or exile. When we understand this, his opening words could be deemed an understatement.
“Our situation today shows that beauty demands for itself at least as much courage and decision as do truth and goodness, and she will not allow herself to be separated and banned from her two sisters without taking them along with herself in an act of mysterious vengeance. We can be sure that whoever sneers at her name as if she were the ornament of a bourgeois past…can no longer pray and soon will no longer be able to love.”
- Hans Urs von Balthasar