Who was Saint Matthias?
According to the biblical “Acts of Apostles 1:21–26,” Saint Matthias was a disciple chosen by the apostles as a replacement for Judas Iscariot after the latter’s betrayal of Jesus Christ. It was important that the community endured even after the crucifixion to spread the Christian faith all around the world, and it was crucial that the number of apostles remained 12, as 12 was the number of tribes of Israel and a twelfth apostle was required for the coming of the new Israel. Jesus himself chose the original 12 apostles, and the rest of the apostles chose Saint Matthias after the Ascension. They cast their votes through lots and selected Matthias. There is no further information about him in the New Testament. It is believed that Matthias placed his faith in Jesus Christ above everything else and was present with the other apostles at the Pentecost. He embraced all the teachings of Jesus and sacrificed his life for the service of the Lord, even after being persecuted by many. He also worked many miracles in the name of Lord Jesus, which converted many to the Christian faith. He is a patron of carpenters, tailors, and those who are affected by smallpox.
Childhood & Early Life
Saint Matthias was born in the 1st century AD, at Judaea. In his early youth, he studied the Law of God under Saint Simeon. According to the acts, it is said that Matthias had accompanied the Lord from the time of his baptism and was among the 72 disciples paired off and dispatched by Jesus.
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According to tradition, it is believed that, after the Descent of the Holy Spirit, Matthias ministered and preached the Gospel at Jerusalem and in Judaea with the other apostles.
From Jerusalem, he went to the Syrian Antioch and was present in the city of Tianum and Sinope. During his time here, Saint Matthias was imprisoned but was freed miraculously by Saint Andrew the First-Called. After this, he traveled to the city of Amasea, which was on the shore of the Caspian Sea.
He accompanied Apostle Andrew during a three-year journey and was with him at Edessa and Sebaste. According to a tradition, he preached at Pontine Ethiopia (presently known as Western Georgia) and Macedonia. He was constantly persecuted by the people there but kept preaching the Gospel to them.
In one version of the story, the Pontine Ethiopians were considered to be pagans and barbarians, and they forced the saint to drink poison. But he remained unharmed because he had the Lord’s protection, and he even healed other prisoners who were blinded by the poison.
Saint Matthias left the prison, and this enraged the pagans who kept searching for him in vain. They intended to kill the saint, and according to the story, the earth opened up and engulfed them.
After this, he returned to Judaea and continued enlightening his countrymen about Christ’s teachings. He also told them how he was able to perform miracles in the name of Lord Jesus and motivated many to have faith in Christ.
This enraged the Jewish High Priest Ananias, who hated Christ. He had already ordered the execution of Apostle James in the past and decided to arrest Matthias. The saint was brought for judgment before the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem.
During the hearing, High Priest Ananias slandered the Lord with a blasphemous speech. But Apostle Matthias, using the prophecies of the Old Testament, explained that Jesus Christ is “the True God, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, Consubstantial and Coeternal with God the Father.”
Death & Legacy
According to Nicephorus, Saint Matthias was stoned to death in Aethopia (modern-day Georgia). An extant Coptic “Acts of Andrew and Matthias,” validates this story. A marker that is placed on the ruins of the Roman fortress at Gonia claims that the saint is buried at that site.
The Synopsis of Dorotheus also talks about a similar story. It claims that Matthias was preaching the Gospel in the sea harbor of Hyssus and at the mouth of the river Phasis. He died at Sebastopolis and was buried near the Temple of the Sun.
In another tradition, Saint Matthias was stoned by the people of Jerusalem after he enraged Ananias. After his death, he was beheaded by the Jews to conceal their crime. His killers then branded him as an enemy of Caesar. According to Hippolytus of Rome, the saint died of old age in Jerusalem.
It is said that Empress Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine I, brought the saint’s remains to Italy. A part of these relics was placed in the Abbey of Santa Giustina and the remaining in the Abbey of St. Matthias.
The Latin Church celebrates the feast of Saint Matthias on 14th May, and the Greek Church celebrates it on 9th August.