An amphiboly is when the same statement can have two different meanings depending on the emphasis and grouping of the words. For example, at a recent county fair, I saw signs forbidding parking by “Temporary Police Order.” It made me wonder if I had to take seriously an order given by the temporary police. The real meaning, of course, is that the order is temporary. The ambivalence of the word association creates the amphiboly.
The amphiboly in the title of this blog is intentional because both St. Matthew and I are called to follow Christ, but the painting entitled The Calling of Saint Matthew has had a profound impact on me as I have meditated on it. I am not an art critic, so this is not an explanation of the finer points of composition and symbolism in the painting. This is a meditation on the painting and the two other works created by Caravaggio. The Calling is actually one of a set of three paintings. The other two are The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, which depicts St. Matthew as he composes his Gospel, and The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew, which depicts his martyrdom, as the name suggests.
I first looked up the Calling a number of years ago because I heard a Catholic speaker refer to it. I was impacted immediately by the painting and what I learned as I did some research about the painting’s contents. The impact was heightened because my name is Matthew, and St. Matthew is a close friend with whom I communicate on a regular basis. This painting seemed to be addressing me personally with an important message, just as Jesus addresses St. Matthew with an important message in the painting: Follow me. Jesus says the same thing to me through the painting and at all moments.
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