Saint Matthias from the workshop of Simone Martini
|Born||1st century AD
Judaea (modern-day Israel)
|Died||c. 80 AD
Jerusalem or in Colchis (modern-day Georgia)
|Honored in||Roman Catholic Church
Eastern Orthodox Churches
Oriental Orthodox Churches
|Feast||May 14 (Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Communion)
August 9 (Eastern Orthodox Churches)
February 24 (in leap years February 25) (pre-1970 General Roman Calendar, Episcopal Church, Lutheran Church)
|Patronage||alcoholism; carpenters; Gary, Indiana; Great Falls-Billings, Montana; smallpox; tailors|
Matthias (Hebrew transliteration Mattityahu) (d. 80), according to the Acts of the Apostles, was the apostle chosen by the remaining eleven apostles to replace Judas Iscariot following Judas' betrayal of Jesus and suicide. His calling as an apostle is unique in that his appointment was not made personally by Jesus, who had already ascended to heaven, and, it was made before the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the early Church.
There is no mention of a Matthias among the lists of disciples or followers of Jesus in the three synoptic gospels. According to Acts 1, in the days following the Ascension of Jesus, to the assembled disciples, who numbered about one hundred and twenty, that they nominated two men to replace Judas: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then 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 the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.
No further information about Matthias is to be found in the canonical 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 Judaea, then in Aethiopia (made out to be a synonym for the region of Colchis, now in modern-day Georgia) and was stoned to death 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.
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 meat-eaters in the interior of Ethiopia, where the sea harbor of Hyssus is, at the mouth of the river Phasis. He died at Sebastopolis, and was buried there, near the Temple of the Sun."
Alternatively, another tradition maintains that Matthias was stoned at Jerusalem by the Jews, and then beheaded (cf. Tillemont, Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire ecclesiastique des six premiers siècles, I, 406–7).
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.
The feast of Saint Matthias was included in the Roman Calendar in the 11th century and celebrated on the sixth day to the Calends of March (February 24 usually, but February 25 in leap years). Owing to the reform of the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in 1969, his feast was transferred to May 14, so as not to celebrate it in Lent but instead in Eastertide close to the Solemnity of the Ascension, the event after which the Acts of the Apostles recounts that Matthias was selected to be ranked with the Twelve Apostles.
The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates his feast on August 9.
The Church of England's Book of Common Prayer liturgy celebrates Matthias on February 24. According to the newer Common Worship liturgy, he is celebrated on May 14 with a Festival, although he may be celebrated on February 24, if desired. In the Episcopal Church as well as some in the Lutheran Church, including the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and the Lutheran Church–Canada, his feast remains on February 24. In Evangelical Lutheran Worship, used by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as well as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the feast date for Matthias is on May 14.
It is claimed that St Matthias the Apostle's remains are interred in the Abbey of St. Matthias, Trier, Germany, brought there through Empress Helena of Constantinople, 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, 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 similar activities.
Matthias is especially invoked against temptations of the flesh.
- "Saint Matthias". Catholic Saints. 2009. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
- Acts 1:18–26.
- Acts 1:23–26.
- The Ethiopia/Aethiopia mentioned here as well as in the quote from the "Synopsis of Dorotheus" is that region identified with an ancient Egyptian military colony in the Caucasus mountains on the river Alazani. Its inhabitants were described as being black and or swarthy with curly or woolen hair.
- See "Egyptian Colony and Language in the Caucasus and its Anthropological Relations," by Hyde Clarke, 1874
- "The Traditions of Matthias". Earlychristianwritings.com. Retrieved 2011-05-12.
- "Calendarium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 92; cf. p. 117
- "web site". Oremus.org. Retrieved 2011-05-12.
- The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod web site[dead link]
- Evangelical Lutheran Worship, (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2007), 15
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "St. Matthias". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company.
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