sept 21 2015 300x252 St. Matthew, Apostle & Evangelist

Here’s an article from the Touchstone archives in honor of the feast day of St. Matthew.

Matthew’s Portrait
by Patrick Henry Reardon

Edgar Allen Poe, in his penetrating review of Bleak House, remarked that no reader can comprehend the real wealth of that work in a single reading. Numerous shades of nuance, Poe explained, and dozens of subtle connections were woven so deeply into the fabric of Bleak House that their presence was not even suspected on a first reading.

On a second reading, however, the now enlightened reader knows what to look for; he will perceive treasures that eluded his attention the first time through. Innumerable lines will shine now with a new luster. Thus, concluded Poe, fully to grasp the meaning of Bleak House for the first time, the reader is obliged to go through it a second time.

One suspects here the presence of a permanent literary principle, namely, that any story truly worth reading is worth reading two or more times. Even little children seem to know this. I have never met a child content with a single reading of a good story.

Another test case for Poe’s principle, let me suggest, is the Gospel according to St. Matthew. I have long believed that the Missionary Mandate received by the apostles in the closing verses of that Gospel is the best key to understanding it as a whole. That is to say, after reading Matthew all the way to its memorable ending, it is most instructive to take that ending as an interpretive guide and go back through the Gospel again, considering everything else in the light of it.

An easy way to do this, I suggest, is to reflect on Matthew’s Missionary Mandate with respect to structure, theme, and imagery.

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