Apostle Matthias – Keeping vigil on our journey
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen. Dear beloved, let us remember the Holy Apostle Matthias, and our beloved Theotokos. Our Most Holy Theotokos, St Olympias, Apostle Matthias, pray for us!
During this Dormition Fast, other than tending to the disciplines of observing the fast, we also tend to ourselves, trying our best to watch what we say, what we do, what we feel, what we think.
We remember our Holy Apostle Matthias, of the seventy, and the twelve, on this day.
The Apostle Matthias was born at Bethlehem and he studied the Law of God since young, under St Simeon the God-Receiver. When the saint saw our Lord Jesus Christ, he believed, and followed the Lord as one of the seventy (St Luke 10:1).
After the Ascension of our Lord, St Matthias was chosen through lot to replace the fallen Judas (Acts 1:15-26), and went on to preach the Gospel at Jerusalem and Judea with the twelve when the Holy Spirit descended upon us (Acts 6-8).
Although often threatened with death, the Apostle Matthias was kept alive by our Lord. Some pagans attempted to poison the saint, but the saint was unharmed, and even healed the rest of those imprisoned with him. There was another incident when pagans wanted to kill the saint but were instead swallowed up by the earth. The saint received the martyr’s crown in 63 AD. Holy Apostle Matthias of the twelve, pray for us, and may the strength of God keep us strong in our walk.
There is no accident or luck with the Ways of our Lord. Everything He does, has a Divine Will, that we as the faithful choose to follow. The holy Apostle Matthias was chosen by lot, and yet, that was no accident or luck, but through the Mercy of God. Likewise, out of the multitude of people who can hear of God and His Truth, it is not luck that we can hold up His Truth in our humble prayers, and call ourselves Christians.
What is one of the primary pillars of our journey of faith? Love.
Love is something profound, a gift of mercy from God. We may pray our whole lives, we may repent our whole lives, but the true measure of the journey of a life spent in repentance and prayer, is how much we can love others as much as we profess to love God. By keeping watch over ourselves through the mercy of God, we begin to understand what kind of Christians we are, or will be. As we reflect upon St Luke 9:1-6, we see that even as we are to take the Truth of God as a beacon of life and light to others, we are to hold It up with a serving plate of love, and not of might or arrogance.
Gerontissa Gabrielia (older nun, or mother), who lived for 95 years and reposed in 1992, was known to be a contemporary ascetic of love. Although she did not sought recognition throughout her life, she touched the lives of so many people and helped them through her humility and love.
She recounted this experience with a foreign missionary, who said to her, “You may be a good woman, but you are not a good Christian.” She asked why.
The foreigner said, “Because you have been here so long and you only speak English. What local languages have you learned?”
The Gerontissa replied, “I haven’t managed to learn any of the local languages, because I travel a great deal from place to place. As soon as I learn one dialect, they start speaking another. I’ve only learned ‘good morning’ and ‘good evening.’ Nothing else.”
The foreigner exclaimed, “Bah, you are no Christian. How can you evangelize? All the Catholics and Protestants learn all the local dialects in order to…”
The Gerontissa, at this point, prayed to God for an answer, and she replied, “Ah, I forgot to tell you. I know 5 languages.”
“Really? What are they?”
“The first is the smile. The second is tears. The third is touch. The fourth is prayer, and the fifth is love. With these 5 languages I go all around the world.”
The foreigner stopped and asked the Gerontissa to repeat again so that he could write it down.
The Gerontissa said, “Love everyone as your own, without concern for religion or race, without concern for anything. Everywhere are people of God. You never know if the one you see today might tomorrow be a saint.”
While saintly and profound love as shown by the saints before us and among us may not be easy for us, we can at least try to be watchful, keeping vigil on our ways in the days of our lives (Joshua 22:5, Proverbs 4:20-27).
Fourth century saint, St Ephraim the Syrian, deacon, hymnographer and theologian, once said, “I will not stop saying, ‘Blessed is one who has despised all earthly and perishable things and acquired love.’ Such a person’s reward increases every day. Such a person’s reward and crown has been prepared, the Kingdom of heaven has been given them. All the Angels call them blessed; all the Powers of heaven praise them; the choirs of the Archangels receive them with joy. For them the gates of heaven will be speedily opened, and they will enter with boldness1, take their stand by the throne of God, be crowned by God’s right hand, and will reign with him for endless ages.”
There are always distractions, temptations, spiritual dangers from the evil one, to lure us away from our journeys toward God. We have to keep vigil on our journey, repent often, pray often. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”.
Let us close by praying the thanksgiving prayer:
It is truly meet to call thee blest, the Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious than the Seraphim, without corruption thou gavest birth to God the Word: True Theotokos, we magnify thee.
O virgin Theotokos, rejoice; O Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
St Luke 9:1-6
Acts 1:12-17, 21-26