Matthias 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 descending of the Holy Spirit upon the early Church.
The Greek Matthias, is a name derived from Mattathias, Hebrew Mattithiah, signifying “Gift of Yahweh“
The Apostle Selection
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. (Acts 1:23-26)
Life and Feast Day of St. Matthias
All further information concerning the life and death of Matthias is vague and contradictory. According to Nicephorus, he first preached the Gospel in Judea, then in Ethiopia and was crucified. The Synopsis of Dorotheus contains this tradition: 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. It is said that St. Helena brought the relics of St. Matthias to Rome, and that a portion of them was at Trier. Bollandus 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. Later, the Latin Church moved the feast of St. Matthias to 14 May.