Saint Matthiasadmin | 24 February 2010
The collect for today, the Feast of Saint Matthias the Apostle, from The Book of Common Prayer (Canadian, 1962):
O ALMIGHTY God, who into the place of the traitor Judas didst choose thy faithful servant Matthias to be of the number of the twelve Apostles: Grant that thy Church, being alway preserved from false Apostles, may be ordered and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
In the time between Christ’s Ascension and Pentecost, the small band of disciples, numbering about 120, gathered together. Peter spoke of the necessity of selecting a twelfth apostle to replace Judas and enunciated two criteria for the office of apostle: He must have been a follower of Jesus from the Baptism to the Ascension, and he must be a witness to the resurrected Lord. This meant that apostles had to be able to proclaim Jesus as Lord from first-hand personal experience. Two of the brothers were found to fulfill those qualifications: Matthias and Joseph called Barsabbas also called the Just. Matthias was chosen by lot. Neither of these two men is referred to by name in the four Gospels, although several early church witnesses, including Clement of Alexandria and Eusebius of Caesarea, report that Matthias was one of the seventy-two disciples.
Since he is not mentioned later in the New Testament, nothing else is known for certain about his activities. He is said to have preached in Judaea for some time and then traveled elsewhere. Various contradictory stories about his apostolate have existed since early in church history. The tradition held by the Greek Church is that he went to Cappadocia and the area near the Caspian Sea where he was crucified at Colchis. Some also say he went to Ethiopia before Cappadocia. Another tradition holds that he was stoned to death and then beheaded at Jerusalem.
The Empress St Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, is said to have brought St Matthias’s relics to Rome c 324, some of which were moved to the Benedictine Abbey of St Matthias, Trier, Germany, in the 11th century.
Artwork: Tilman Riemenschneider, Saint Matthias, c 1500-1505. Limewood, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Skulpturensammlung. Photograph: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, www.metmuseum.org.