Monday, May 14, 2012

St Matthias' Day

Western Christians celebrate the Apostle Matthias today. According to Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius and Jerome, Matthias, whose name means “gift of God,” was known to have been one of the seventy-two sent out in pairs by Jesus to preach the Gospel and heal the sick. Certainly from Acts 1 and 2 we know that Matthias was part of the small community Jesus had around himself from the time of his baptism until his ascension.

When Peter said that Judas should be replaced (Acts 1:15-21), two names were selected, "Joseph called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias." So the community prayed, cast lots, and Matthias was chosen. From that time on he was numbered among the twelve. He was with them on the day of Pentecost, but we don’t meet him again in the New Testament. He is, however, said to have preached the Gospel for more than thirty years beginning in Judea, then in Cappadocia, the shores of the Caspian Sea (in modern day Georgia) and Ethiopia. There are conflicting stories of his death. He was either crucified in Colchis or stoned in Jerusalem.

The traditional symbol of St Matthias is a double-headed axe resting on a Bible.

Here is a beautiful – if slightly quirky – poem on St Matthias by the English poet, Charles Walter Stansby Williams (1886-1945):

I am Matthias; I am he who covers
The cloudy opening of the uttermost prison,
Where on went down - and is not re-arisen,-
Out of the Twelve who were the Lord Christ's lovers,
About my name upon this day there hovers
A rumour of despair and desolation;
And even the Holy City's glad salvation
Sighs for the memory of its exciled rovers.

I am Matthias, yea, and am another,
Installed within the bishopric of my brother;
I who am his oblivion am his fame.
I am the dream, upon your strife attending,
That all things, bound to a most perfect ending,
Shall be made one by Christ's invincible Name.


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