Saint Matthias the Apostle
Feast Day: February 24th (25th on leap years)
St. Matthias, Apostle
by Father Prosper by Fr .Weninger, 1877The holy apostle Matthias was born in Bethlehem, a city of Judaea. His parents reared him carefully and instructed him in the Commandments and ordinances of God. As soon as Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, had commenced to preach the Gospel, Matthias was among his hearers, and, taking His teachings deeply to heart, he followed the Divine Master, and was thus admitted among the seventy-two disciples of Christ. He also witnessed most of the miracles which our Savior wrought during the time of His preaching. It cannot be doubted that Christ, after His resurrection, appeared to him as to others of His disciples, nor that he was present upon the mountain when Christ was so gloriously carried up to heaven. After the ascension of our Lord he repaired, with the apostles and other disciples, into the dining-hall, where they prepared themselves, in obedience to Christ's command, to receive the Holy Ghost. St. Peter, as the chief of the apostles, rose in the midst of the assemblage and represented to them that one of those men, who had been constant in their attendance on the teachings of Christ, must be chosen in the place of the unhappy Judas. The latter, having betrayed and sold Christ for thirty pieces of silver, had ended his miserable life by hanging himself on a tree, where, his body bursting, had emitted his entrails. The place of this unfortunate traitor, who had been chosen an apostle by Christ, had to be filled and the missing member of the Apostolic College supplied.
Two men were proposed; Joseph, who, on account of his piety, was surnamed the just, and Matthias. The meaning of the latter name is, the gift of God. To ascertain which of the two God wished them to choose as His apostle, they all united in the following fervent prayer: "O Lord, Thou who knowest the hearts of all men, manifest to us which of these two Thou hast chosen to take the place and apostolic function which Judas deserted." After having thus prayed they drew lots, and as the choice fell upon Matthias, he was associated with the eleven apostles. On the day of Pentecost he received the holy Ghost with the other apostles and disciples, and began at once to preach Jesus Christ as the true Messiah, bearing witness of His resurrection and ascension, and openly announcing the teaching of the Savior. When, afterwards, the apostles dispersed over the whole world to preach the Gospel of Christ, the part which was assigned to St. Matthias to convert was Judaea. He bean the work of conversion with true apostolic zeal, went through all the cities and villages of the land of Judaea, preaching and announcing Christ, and confirming, with many miracles, the truth of his words, gaining by this means many thousands to the number of the faithful. He was, however, not satisfied with merely converting them, but was also assiduous in directing them to lead a truly Christian life. St. Clement, of Alexandria, records that this holy apostle preached to the newly-converted particularly of mortification: how, in following the precepts of Christ, we must mortify our body, carry our cross, and battle with our evil desires. "Against the flesh," said he, "we must battle and never yield to its sensual desires."
The history of the Church states that St. Matthias, during thirty-three years, continued his apostolic labors with unabated zeal in Judaea nnd Galilee. Meanwhile, it became unbearable for the obdurate Jews to see the number of the faithful increase daily, and to observe that Jesus Christ, whom they had crucified as a malefactor, was regarded and honored as the Messias and Savior of the world: they therefore determined to make away with the apostle. Ananias, the high-priest, caused Matthias to be brought before him in an assemblage of the elders, and asked how he dared to seduce the people of Judaea from the Commandments of God, and entice them to worship one whom, as a blasphemer, they had nailed to the cross? At the same time he menaced him with death, should he not desist from preaching in future.
Matthias, inspired by the Holy Ghost, demonstrated clearly to all assembled that He whom they had crucified as a blasphemer was the Son of God, the Messiah so long promised, who had risen from the dead, and who was to come again to judge both the living and the dead: adding that he would live and die in his faith in Christ. No one in the vast assemblage could refute his words, and, on this account, they became more furious against him. Ananias pronounced the sentence: "Matthias, as a blasphemer, shall be stoned alive." The others assented to this judgment, and, seizing the apostle, they led him out of the city to the place of execution. The Saint went joyfully, thanking God for bestowing upon him the grace to die for Christ, and prayed with bended knees for the salvation of all present and for the whole country. The enraged Jews immediately seized stones, and hurled them on him until he sank half dead upon the ground, when a Roman soldier beheaded him with an axe. The Christians buried his body with great honors, and the holy Empress Helena had it afterwards brought to Rome. When, however, the Empress received, from Pope Sylvester, St. Agritius, as Bishop of Treves, she gave to him, among other relics, the seamless garment of Jesus and the body of St. Matthias, to remove them to Treves, where, to this day, they are preserved in great honor, while St. Matthias is invoked as patron of this old and renowned city.
Practical ConsiderationsHave you observed what St. Matthias preached of the mortification of the flesh? Read it once more, and learn that not only the religious in the convents, but all Christians, are obliged to practice mortification and to battle against the sensuality of the flesh. Those who yield too much, who allow the flesh all it craves for, and who strive only to do what is agreeable to it, deserve not the name of Christians, neither have they part in Christ nor in the rewards He has promised to His followers. Those who wish to belong to Christ must, according to the teachings of St. Paul, "Crucify flesh with its vices and concupiscences" (Galat. v.). Thus acted this apostle, as well as all the other apostles and disciples of Christ. A life of luxury and sensuality has not yet opened to any one the gates of heaven. Do you perhaps imagine you will be the first? Ah! take care. Believe not the world and the Evil One when they endeavor to persuade you that such will be the case. They deceive you to your eternal perdition. Believe, much rather, our Lord Jesus Christ, who says, in distinct words: "The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent bear it away" (Matthew xi.). The violent are those who do violence to themselves and their evil inclinations, who suppress them and lead a life of self-immolation. He who, without mortification, without self-abnegation, without valiantly wrestling against irregular desires, would gain salvation, must not imagine that he will thus bear away the kingdom of heaven. Violence must be applied. Therefore it is that Eternal Truth exhorts us with these serious words: "Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say unto you, shall seek to enter and shall not be able" (St. Luke xiii.). These many are, according to St. Chrysostom, those who, without mortification of their flesh, without self-abnegation, without earnest endeavors, suppose they will go to heaven. Are you not one of that number? Will you belong to them also in future?
Today's feast recalls to us the sad history of the wretched Judas, in whose place St. Matthias was chosen an apostle. Judas, an apostle of Christ, became the betrayer of his Divine Master--a suicide, a companion of the devil--and is now forever buried in the fire of hell. What an unhappy, what a terrible fall! But what has precipitated him from the height of his dignity into the abyss of misery? Nothing else but avarice, or the inordinate, the immoderate love of money. To receive thirty pieces of silver he scrupled not at the vilest means, namely, to betray and to sell Christ. Avarice tempted him into the blackest, the most horrible crime; from this he sank into despair, and from despair into hell.
Oh! how true are St. Paul's words: "For they that will become rich, fall into temptation and into the snare of the devil, and into many unprofitable and hurtful devices, which drown men into destruction and perdition. "For the desire of money"--the immoderate desire of riches--"is the root of all evil, which some, coveting, have erred from the faith and have entangled themselves in many sorrows " (I. Timothy vi.). How many thousands who have experienced this are in hell with Judas! Avarice, and the inordinate desire of earthly possessions, mislead men to make use of inadmissible, injurious, and baneful means to become rich. They will lie; they will deceive; they will be faithless; they will steal; they will rob; they will practice usury, prostitution, and injustice; they will oppress poor widows and orphans; they will pay neither earned wages nor debts; and at last they will even murder. To the use of such horrible means, to such heavy crimes, has avarice led many a man. And what has been their end? They have died impenitent in their sins, and they have gone to eternal destruction. How did they fare upon earth? What benefit did they derive from what they had amassed so unrighteously? Some of them seemed to enjoy it for a time, but, when they least thought of it, death came unawares and took everything away from them. With empty hands they went into eternity, leaving all that they possessed to others. Some have had the fate of the unfortunate Judas, of whom St. Chrysostom writes: "He committed the crime, enjoyed not the money, and lost his soul forever." They did not even enjoy what they had unjustly amassed. At the moment they thought of enjoying it the words of the Gospel became true: "Thou fool this night do they require thy soul of thee, and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?" (St. Luke xii.) Both the first and the last of whom I spoke have rendered themselves everlastingly unhappy. That is what they got by this sin. Picture it to yourself, and be careful that you never gain earthly goods by unjustifiable means. "Take heed and beware of all covetousness," exhorts our Lord Jesus Christ (St. Luke xii.). True, also, are the words of the Apostle: "The covetous shall not possess the kingdom of God " (I. Cor. vi.).
St. Matthias, Apostle
by Rev. Alban Butler, 1857St. Clement of Alexandria assures us, from tradition, that this saint was one of the seventy-two disciples, which is confirmed, by Eusebius and St. Jerome; and we learn from the Acts of the Apostles that he was a constant attendant on our Lord from the time of His baptism by St. John to His ascension. St. Peter having, in a general assembly of the faithful held soon after, declared from holy scripture the necessity of choosing a twelfth apostle in the room of Judas, two were unanimously pitched upon by the assembly as most worthy of the dignity--Joseph, called Barnabas, and, on account of his extraordinary piety, surnamed the Just, and Matthias. After devout prayer to God that He would direct them in their choice, they proceeded in it by way of lot, which falling by the divine direction on Matthias, he was accordingly associated with the eleven, and ranked among the apostles. "When in deliberations each side appears equally good, or each candidate of equally approved merit, lots may be sometimes lawfully used; otherwise, to commit a thing of importance to such a chance, or to expect a miraculous direction of divine providence in it, would be a criminal superstition and a tempting of God, except He Himself, by an evident revelation or inspiration, should appoint such a means for the manifestation of His will, promising his supernatural interposition in it, which was the case on this extraordinary occasion. The miraculous dreams or lots which we read of in the prophets, must no ways authorize any rash superstitious use of such means in others who have not the like authority.
We justly admire the virtue of this holy assembly of saints. Here were no solicitations or intrigues. No one presented himself to the dignity. Ambition can find no place in a virtuous or humble heart. He who seeks a dignity either knows himself unqualified, and is on this account guilty of the most flagrant injustice with regard to the public, by desiring a charge to which he is no ways equal; or he thinks himself qualified for it, and this self-conceit and confidence in his own abilities renders him the most unworthy of all others. Such a disposition deprives a soul of the divine assistance, without which we can do nothing; for God withdraws His grace and refuses His blessing where self-sufficiency and pride have found any footing. It is something of a secret confidence in ourselves, and a presumption that we deserve the divine succour, which banishes Him from us. This is true even in temporal undertakings, but much more so in the charge of souls, in which all success is more particularly the special work of the Holy Ghost, not the fruit of human industry. These two holy candidates were most worthy, of the apostleship, because perfectly humble, and because they looked upon that dignity with trembling, though they considered its labours, dangers, and persecutions with holy joy, and with a burning zeal for the glory of God. No regard was had to worldly talents, none to flesh and blood. God was consulted by prayer, because no one is to be assumed to his ministry who is not called by him, and who does not enter it by the door, and with the undoubted marks of his vocation. Judas's misfortune filled St. Matthias with the greater humility and fervour, lest he also should fall.
We Gentiles are called upon the disinherison of the Jews, and are ingrafted on their stock. We ought therefore to learn to stand always in watchfulness and fear, or we shall be also cut off ourselves, to give place to others whom God will call in our room, and even compel to enter, rather than spare us. The number of His elect depends not on us. His infinite mercy has invited us without any merit on our side; but if we are ungrateful, He can complete His heavenly city without us, and will certainly make our reprobation the most dreadful example of His justice to all eternity. The greater the excess of His goodness and clemency has been towards us, the more dreadful will be the effects of His vengeance. "Many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God, but the sons of the kingdom shall he cast forth."
St. Matthias received the Holy Ghost with the rest soon after his election; and after the dispersion of the disciples, applied himself with zeal to the functions of his apostleship in converting nations to the faith. He is recorded by St. Clement of Alexandria to have been remarkable for inculcating the necessity of the mortification of the flesh with regard to all its sensual and irregular desires, an important lesson he had received from Christ, and which he practised assiduously on his own flesh. The tradition of the Greeks in their menologies tells us that St. Matthias planted the faith about Cappadocia and on the coasts of the Caspian Sea, residing chiefly near the port Issus. He must have undergone great hardships and labours amidst so savage a people. The same authors add that he received the crown of martyrdom in Colchis, which they call Ethiopia. The Latins keep his festival on the 24th of February. Some portions of his relics are shown in the abbatical church of Triers, and in that of St. Mary Major, in Rome, unless these latter belong to another Matthias, who was one of the first bishops of Jerusalem, on which see the Bollandists.
As the call of St. Matthias, so is ours purely the work of God, and his most gratuitous favour and mercy. What thanks, what fidelity and love, do we not owe Him for this inestimable grace! When He decreed to call us to His holy faith, cleanse us from sin, and make us members of His spiritual kingdom, and heirs of His glory, He saw nothing in us which could determine Him to such a predilection. We were infected with sin, and could have no title to the least favour, when God said to us, "I have loved Jacob;" when he distinguished us from so many millions who perish in the blindness of infidelity and sin, drew us out of the mass of perdition, and bestowed on us the grace of His adoption, and all the high privileges that are annexed to this dignity. In what transports of love and gratitude ought we not, without intermission, to adore His infinite goodness to us, and beg that we may be always strengthened by His grace to advance continually in humility and His holy love, lest, by slackening our pace in His service, we fall from this state of happiness, forfeit this sublime grace, and perish with Judas. Happy would the church be if all converts were careful to maintain themselves in the same fervour in which they returned to God; but by a neglect to watch over themselves, and to shun dangers, and by falling into sloth, they often relapse into a condition much worse than the former.
History of St. Matthias
The Catholic Encyclopedia (1911)
The Greek Matthias (or, in some manuscripts, Maththias), is a name derived from Mattathias, Heb. Mattithiah, signifying "gift of Yahweh." Matthias was one of the seventy disciples of Jesus, and had been with Him from His baptism by John to the Ascension (Acts i, 21, 22). It is related (Acts, i, 15-26) that in the days following the Ascension, Peter proposed to the assembled brethren, who numbered one hundred and twenty, that they choose one to fill the place of the traitor Judas in the Apostolate. Two disciples, Joseph, called Barsabas, and Matthias were selected, and lots were drawn, with the result in favor of Matthias, who thus became associated with the eleven Apostles. Zeller has declared this narrative unhistoric, on the plea that the Apostles were in Galilee after the death of Jesus. As a matter of fact they did return to Galilee, but the Acts of the Apostles clearly state that about the feast of Pentecost they went back to Jerusalem.
All further information concerning the life and death of Matthias is vague and contradictory. According to Nicephorus (Hist. eccl., 2, 40), he first preached the Gospel in Judea, then in Ethiopia (that is to say, Colchis) and was crucified. The Synopsis of Dorotheus contains this tradition: Matthias in interiore Æthiopia, ubi Hyssus maris portus et Phasis fluvius est, hominibus barbaris et carnivoris praedicavit Evangelium. Mortuus est autem in Sebastopoli, ibique prope templum Solis sepultus (Matthias preached the Gospel to barbarians and cannibals in the interior of Ethiopia, at the harbour of the sea of Hyssus, at the mouth of the river Phasis. He died at Sebastopolis, and was buried there, near the Temple of the Sun). Still another tradition maintains that Matthias was stoned at Jerusalem by the Jews, and then beheaded (cf. Tillemont, "Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire eccl. des six premiers siécles", I, 406-7). It is said that St. Helena brought the relics of St. Matthias to Rome, and that a portion of them was at Trier. Bollandus (Acta SS., May, III) doubts if the relics that are in Rome are not rather those of the St. Matthias who was Bishop of Jerusalem about the year 120, and whose history would seem to have been confounded with that of the Apostle. The Latin Church celebrates the feast of St. Matthias on 24 February and the Greek Church on 9 August.
Clement of Alexandria (Strom., III, 4) records a sentence that the Nicolaitans ascribe to Matthias: "we must combat our flesh, set no value upon it, and concede to it nothing that can flatter it, but rather increase the growth of our soul by faith and knowledge". This teaching was probably found in the Gospel of Matthias which was mentioned by Origen (Hom. i in Lucam); by Eusebius (Hist. eccl., III, 25), who attributes it to heretics; by St. Jerome (Praef. in Matth.), and in the Decree of Gelasius (VI, 8) which declares it apocryphal. It is at the end of the list of the Codex Barrocciamus (206). This Gospel is probably the document whence Clement of Alexandria quoted several passages, saying that they were borrowed from the traditions of Matthias, Paradoseis, the testimony of which he claimed to have been invoked by the heretics Valentinus, Marcion, and Basilides (Strom., VII, 17). According to the Philosophoumena, VII, 20, Basilides quoted apocryphal discourses, which he attributed to Matthias. These three writings: the gospel, the Traditions, and the Apocryphal Discourses were identified by Zahn (Gesch. des N. T. Kanon, II, 751), but Harnack (Chron. der altchrist. Litteratur, 597) denies this identification. Tischendorf ("Acta apostolorum apocrypha", Leipzig, l85I) published after Thilo, 1846, "Acta Andreae et Matthiae in urbe anthropophagarum ", which, according to Lipsius, belonged to the middle of the second century. This apocrypha relates that Matthias went among the cannibals and, being cast into prison, was delivered by Andrew. Needless to say, the entire narrative is without historical value. Moreover, it should be remembered that, in the apocryphal writings, Matthew and Matthias have sometimes been confounded.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X
Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911, Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor
Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York
O Glorious Saint Matthias, in God's design it fell upon you to take the place of the unfortunate Judas who betrayed his Master. You were selected by the twofold sign of the uprightness of your life and the call of the Holy Spirit.
Obtain for us the grace to practice the same uprightness of life and to be called by that same Spirit to wholehearted service of the Church. Then after a life of zeal and good works let us be ushered into your company in heaven to sing forever the praises of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
Prayer from the Breviary of St. Matthias
O God, Who didst choose Thy blessed servant Matthias to be of the number of the twelve Apostles, grant, we beseech Thee, that Thy Church, being upholden by his prayers, may ever feel about her the arms of Thy most mighty protection. Through our Lord Jesus Christ Thy Son, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
Prayer to St. Matthias
O apostle Matthias! thou didst complete the sacred college, from which Judas had fallen; and by the power of the Holy Ghost, thou didst put to flight the darkness of idolatry by the admirable lightnings of thy wise words. Do thou now beseech the Lord that He grant peace and much mercy to our souls.
He that is the true Vine sent thee, a fruitful branch, bearing the grapes that give out the wine of salvation. When they drank it that before were slaves to ignorance, they turned from the drunkenness of error.
Being made, O glorious Matthias, the chariot of God's word, thou didst break for ever the wheels of error, and the chariots of iniquity. By the divine power, thou didst defeat the idolaters, and destroy the pillars and the temples; but thou didst build up to the Trinity other temples, which echoed with these words: All ye people, praise Christ above all for ever! Amen.