Monday, 14 May 2012

St Matthias, Apostle.

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Saint he may be, but there is no mention of Matthias in the lists of disciples in the Synoptic Gospels. According to the Acts of the Apostles, after the Ascension of Jesus, the assembled disciples, 120 or so of them, nominated 2 men to replace Judas: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. They prayed, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs." Then they cast lots, and elected Matthias. (Acts 1:23-26).

There is absolutely no further information about Matthias in the New Testament. Even his name is uncertain: the Syriac NT of Eusebius doesn't call him Matthias but "Tolmai", (not to be confused with Bartholomew (which means Son of Tolmai) who was one of the original Apostles); Clement of Alexandria states that some identified him with Zacchaeus; the Clementine Recognitions identify him with Barnabas; the German Tubigen School theologian Hilgenfeld thought he was the same as Nathanael in the Gospel of John. According to Nicephorus (Historia eccl., 2, 40), Matthias first preached the Gospel in Judea, then in Aethiopia (believed to be a synonym for  Colchis, in modern-day Georgia) where he was crucified. A marker placed in the ruins of the Roman fortress at Gonio (Apsaros) in Georgia claims that Matthias is buried there.

The Synopsis of Dorotheus contains this tradition:
"Matthias preached the Gospel to barbarians and meat-eaters in the interior of Ethiopia, where the sea harbour of Hyssus is, at the mouth of the river Phasis. He died at Sebastopolis, and was buried there, near the Temple of the Sun.")
The Coptic Acts of Andrew and Matthias, places his activity similarly in "the city of the cannibals" in Ethiopia.  Alternatively, another tradition maintains that Matthias was stoned at Jerusalem by the Jews, and then beheaded.  According to Hippolytus of Rome, Matthias died of old age in Jerusalem.
Clement of Alexandria observed (Stromateis vi.13.):
Not that they became apostles through being chosen for some distinguished peculiarity of nature, since also Judas was chosen along with them. But they were capable of becoming apostles on being chosen by Him who foresees even ultimate issues. Matthias, accordingly, who was not chosen along with them, on showing himself worthy of becoming an apostle, is substituted for Judas.
It is claimed that St Matthias's remains are interred in the abbey of St. Matthias, Trier, Germany, having been brought there by the Empress Helena, mother of Emperor Constantine I (the Great). According to Greek sources, the remains of the apostle are buried in the castle of Gonio-Apsaros, Georgia.

According to old tradition, the old St. Matthias's Day (February 24) is said to be the luckiest day of the year. This is because Matthias was the saint who was chosen by lot to replace Judas Iscariot. It has therefore been seen as a good day on which to buy lottery tickets or to participate in activities such as that.  he is the patron Saint of alcoholism (as are St Martin of Tours and St John of God) ; carpenters; Gary, Indiana; Great Falls-Billings, Montana; smallpox & tailors.

So we don't where he worked or how he died or even where his body is today.  But I believe he is with Christ his Master now and continues to pray for us and with us.

Lord God, you chose Saint Matthias by lot
to complete the number of the twelve apostles.
By his prayer, include us among your chosen ones,
since we rejoice to see
that the lot marked out for us is your love.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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