Friday, August 9, 2013

The Holy Apostle Matthias as a Model for our Lives

Holy Apostle Matthias (Feast Day - August 9)
By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnanas

When Judas Iscariot forfeited his place among the Twelve Disciples by betraying Christ and in turn hanging himself, then the Church decided to elect and put in his place someone else, in order to fill the number of the Twelve Disciples.

The way in which this election took place was described by Luke the Evangelist in the first chapter of his book Acts of the Apostles. He writes that the Apostles nominated two people, Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed in these words: "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 threw lots and the lot fell on Matthias, who was enlisted with the other eleven apostles.

For the life and works of the Apostle Matthias we know very little. In the Synaxaria there are no details of his life. Yet from what we read we can understand the magnitude of what he offered, his labors, his struggles, and his anxiousness to spread the gospel.

Before being numbered among the Twelve Disciples he belonged to the chorus of the Seventy Apostles. After his election he went to Ethiopia where he preached the gospel. There he suffered persecution and punishment from the Ethiopians and he completed his earthly life with a martyric death. After all, every Apostle departed this temporary life with a martyric death, except the Evangelist John the Theologian who "completed his life in peace". But even he suffered punishment and persecution and ended up dying after being exiled.

The glory of the Holy Apostles is their preaching of the Gospel of Love, and everything connected with it, such as prosecution, imprisonment, exile, scourging, disgrace, humiliation, etc.

It is related in the Acts of the Apostles that the Apostles, after being the recipients of physical aggression, humiliation and punishment, continued their work with joy. And this was because "they were found to be worthy to suffer disgrace in the name of the Lord".

Commenting on the above, we would like to emphasize two points:

First, that in the case of the election of the Apostle Matthias we are clearly shown the way in which the Holy Apostles worked and acted. Everywhere and always they wanted the will of God to take place. They recommended to God and He elected them. They do the human and they leave the divine for God to act, that is, they allowed God the space to act and reveal His will. In the Church everything is divine-human. God works and man is a co-worker. He does not violate human freedom, but the will of God is not undervalued either.

Usually we, who are enslaved to our passions, want our will to be done. And even when we surrender ourselves to God we dare to have Him obey us so that what we want will happen. We want God to do the human thing, which is what we can do and must do, and we want to do what God will do.

We must note here that at the election of the Apostle Matthias, there is preserved the traditional way of choosing a Bishop, who are the successors of the Apostles.

Second, the Apostle Matthias suffered persecutions and punishments from the Ethiopians whom he loved and served. At this point he became an imitator of Christ, who served the people in every which way and was crucified by them.

It is not an easy thing to serve people. To shepherd logical sheep is a heavy and painful work. Saint Gregory the Theologian tells us that man is difficult to govern. The workers of the gospel, of course, know very well that Christ is always near them to support them and strengthen them.

In the Old Testament there is a very beautiful dialogue between God and the Prophet Jeremiah. God elected Jeremiah as His Prophet and sent him to speak before His people and say everything that He would dictate. However, he presented his young age as an obstacle. At that time youngsters did not speak publicly, but only the elders. God reassured him and told him to not be afraid, because He would go to those whom He would send him and he would say whatever He commanded him to say. Then, God did not hide from him the difficulties and the dangers he will encounter. He characteristically said that he would move and live among scorpions who will sting him and hurt him. But He also said that he should not be afraid, that he should not be disappointed, but to have courage, because He would not forsake him. He would be with him to support him and comfort him. That is, He promises that which He will later promise to His Apostles, that He would always be with them. That is why the Apostles, even when they reached the point of being totally frustrated, even then they did not give up. They were not overwhelmed by despair, but with prayer they received power. The Holy Spirit strengthened them, comforted them, and filled them with joy.

The struggle for the transformation of the passions and inner regeneration is closely linked with the issue of God's will in our lives. The crucifixion of our personal will is a seal of authenticity. It is the seal of Christ which removes agitation and hopelessness and invites existential joy, peace and inner fulfillment.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΟΣ ΜΑΤΘΙΑΣ", August 2001. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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