St. Matthias, Apostle
by Father Prosper by Fr .Weninger, 1877
The 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 Saviour 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 Saviour 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 Saviour. 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 began 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 Messiah and Saviour 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.