About the Saint:
According to the Book of Acts (Acts 1:15-26), in the days following Jesus’ Ascension, Saint Peter proposed to the assembled brethren, who numbered 120, that they choose one among them to fill the place of the traitor Judas in the Apostolate. Two disciples, Joseph Barsabas and Matthias were selected, and lots were drawn. The lot fell on Matthias, who thus became associated with the other eleven Apostles. Matthias was one of the 70 disciples of Jesus, and had been with Him from His baptism by John to the Ascension (Acts 1:21,22).
No further information about Matthias is to be found in the New Testament. Even his name is variable: the Syriac version of Eusebius calls him throughout not Matthias but “Tolmai”, not to be confused with Bartholomew (which means Son of Tolmai) who was originally one of the twelve Apostles; Clement of Alexandria says some identified him with Zacchaeus; the Clementine Recognitions identify him with Barnabas; Hilgenfeld thinks he is 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 Ethiopia (made out to be a synonym for the geographically quite separate Colchis, now Caucasian Georgia) and was crucified in Colchis. A marker placed in the ruins of the Roman fortress at Gonio (Apsaros) in the modern Georgian region of Adjara claims that Matthias is buried at that site. An extant Coptic Acts of Andrew and Matthias, places his activity similarly in “the city of the cannibals” in Ethiopia.
Alternately, another tradition maintains that Matthias was stoned at Jerusalem by the Jews, and then beheaded, although according to Saint Hippolytus he died of old age in the city of Rome.
Collect of the Day:
O God, you chose the blessed Matthias by lot
to become part of the company of the Apostles.
As we rejoice in the love that has fallen to our lot,
may we deserve to become part of the company of the elect.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God for ever and ever.
The First Reading: Acts of the Apostles: 1:15-17. 20-26: The lot fell to Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven Apostles.
The Gospel: John: 15:9-17: It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.
A homily of St John Chrysostom on the Acts of the Apostles
Make known to us, Lord, the one you choose
In those days, Peter, stood up in the midst of the disciples and said… As the fiery spirit to whom the flock was entrusted by Christ and as the leader in the band of the apostles, Peter always took the initiative in speaking: My brothers, we must choose from among our number. He left the decision to the whole body, at once augmenting the honour of those elected and avoiding any suspicion of partiality. For such great occasions can easily lead to trouble.
Did not Peter then have the right to make the choice himself? Certainly he had the right, but he did not want to give the appearance of showing special favour to anyone. Besides he was not yet endowed with the Spirit. And they nominated two, we read, Joseph, who was called Barsabbas and surnamed Justus, and Matthias. He himself did not nominate them; all present did. But it was he who brought the issue forward, pointing out that it was not his own idea but had been suggested to him by a scriptural prophecy. So he was speaking not as a teacher but as an interpreter.
So, he goes on, we must choose from those men who lived in our company. Notice how insistent he is that they should be eyewitnesses. Even though the Spirit would come to ratify the choice, Peter regards this prior qualification as most important.
Those who lived in our company, he continued, all through the time when the Lord Jesus came and went among us. He refers to those who had dwelt with Jesus, not just those who had been his disciples. For of course from the very beginning many had followed him. Notice how it is written that Peter himself was one of the two who had listened to John, and followed Jesus.
All through the time when the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning with the baptism of John – rightly so, because no one knew what had happened before that time, although they were to know of it later through the Spirit.
Up to the day, Peter added, on which he was taken up from us – one of these must be made a witness along with us of his resurrection. He did not say “a witness of the rest of his actions” but only a witness of the resurrection. That witness would be more believable who could declare that he who ate and drank and was crucified also rose from the dead. He needed to be a witness not of the times before or after that event, and not of the signs and wonders, but only of the resurrection itself. For the rest happened by general admission, openly; but the resurrection took place secretly, and was known to these men only.
And they all prayed together, saying: You, Lord, know the hearts of men; make your choice known to us. “You”, not “we”. Appropriately they said that he knew the hearts of men, because the choice was to be made by him, not by others.
They spoke with such confidence, because someone had to be appointed. They did not say “choose” but make known to us the chosen one; the one you choose, they said, fully aware that everything was preordained by God. They then drew lots. For they did not think themselves worthy to make the choice of their own accord, and therefore they wanted some sign for their instruction.
A Prayer to Saint Matthias:
Saint Matthias, pray that we may become worthy witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus in the way we live the eternal life we have right now. Amen.