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As we have mentioned before, there is evidence that the Apostle Matthias was martyred in Colchis  (the ancient name for Georgia’s Black Sea regions) and buried in Gonio, near Batumi. Today is his feast day.

The elevation of Matthias from the Seventy to the Twelve Apostles is interesting, as it is one of the first written accounts of Apostolic Succession,. Saint Luke’s account of events in the Acts of the Apostles is;

“In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus— he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.” (With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, Field of Blood.) “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms, ” ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, ” ‘May another take his place of leadership.’ Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” So they proposed two men: 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 1:15-26

The Nicene Creed, developed in 325 at the First Ecumenical Council, describes the Church as being “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic”. Given that the Twelve Apostles all reposed almost two millennia ago, for outsiders this description may seem odd. Orthodox Christians believe in Apostolic Succession; tracing a direct line of apostolic ordination, Orthodox doctrine, and full communion of Orthodox jurisdictions from the Twelve Apostles to the current Episcopacy of the Orthodox Church. All three elements are integral to apostolic succession. It is through apostolic succession that the Church is the direct spiritual successor to the original body of believers in Christ as the Son of God, composed of the Apostles. This succession manifests itself through the unbroken succession of its bishops back to the Apostles.

Ordination of a bishop requires the presence of three other bishops. It is not mandatory that the candidate already be ordained as a priest or deacon, but in most jurisdictions that is the norm.

Elections of Patriarchs vary somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but it is generally performed by secret ballot. The repose of a Patriarch generally triggers the appointment of a caretaker Patriarch who organises elections as soon as possible. Each Patriarchate has its own statutes governing such elections, which may take into account dioceses abroad as well as consultation with the laity. National governments are often tempted to interfere with this process, which is generally quite vigorously resisted.

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The Apostle Andrew is commemorated on the same day as Holy King Vakhtang.

He has a great significance for Georgians, as he preached here; according to Church tradition, the Apostles drew lots for which countries to evangelise, and the Virgin Mary was allocated Georgia. In a dream, she was advised to delegate this duty to the Apostle Andrew; the full story is presented in this video here.

The Apostle Andrew is also very significant to the Slavs, as he travelled throughout the Black Sea region to Crimea, and northwards up the Dniepr River to the Slav settlement of Novgorod. He was the first Patriarch of Constantinople, at that time a modest Greek city in Rome’s eastern provinces, and so is revered particularly by both the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow.

He was the brother of the Apostle Peter.  According to Orthodoxwiki.org

Andrew was a fisherman by trade, born in Bethsaida. A disciple of John the Forerunner, he left St. John to follow Jesus Christ following his baptism and brought along his brother, the Apostle Peter. Both are numbered among the Twelve Great Apostles. After Pentecost, the lot fell to St. Andrew to preach in:

  • Byzantium: he appointed St. Stachys as its first bishop
  • Thrace, Peloponnese, Greece, and Epirus: he converted many to the Faith and ordained bishops and priests for them
  • Georgia: he entered Georgia from Ajara, preached Christianity in Atsquri, built small church there and left miracle-working icon of Theotokos.
  • Russian lands: in Kiev he planted a cross on one of the high hills of Kiev, and he prophesied a city that would have many golden-domed churches, and a bright Christian future for the Russian people.

He was martyred in the Greek city of Patras by the Roman governor Aegeatos by crucifixion, in spite of the Apostle having cured his wife and brother of serious illness. Surviving for two days on the cross, he continued preaching the word of God to witnesses until his eventual repose.

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The Apostle Matthias was selected by lottery from the seventy close followers of Christ after Christ’s Resurrection to replace Judas Iscariot, who had hanged himself. The Apostle Matthias is reputed to be buried near Batumi, being the second of the Twelve Apostles to have been martyred in the service of the Church in Georgia (the other is the Apostle Simon the Zealot, martyred in Abkhazia).

The Election by Lottery of the Apostle Matthias

The four Gospels mention him only in passing, but there is a wealth of information on his life preserved through Church Tradition. Because he was already middle-aged at the time of his elevation, icons usually show him as an elderly man.

“The Holy Apostle Matthias was born at Bethlehem, and was a descendent of the Tribe of Judah. From his early childhood he studied the Law of God in accord with the Books of Scripture under the guidance of Saint Simeon the God-Receiver.

When the Lord Jesus Christ revealed Himself to the world, Saint Matthias believed in Him as the Messiah, followed constantly after Him and was numbered amongst the Seventy Disciples, whom the Lord “did send by twos before His face” (Lk. 10: 1).

After the Ascension of the Saviour, Saint Matthias was chosen by lot to replace amongst the 12 Apostles the fallen-away Judas Iscariot (Acts 1: 15-26). After the Descent of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Matthias preached the Gospel at Jerusalem and in Judea together with the other Apostles (Acts 6: 2, 8: 14). From Jerusalem he went with the Apostles Peter and Andrew to Syrian Antioch, and was in the Cappadocian city of Tianum and Sinope. Here the Apostle Matthias was locked into prison, from which he was miraculously freed by the Apostle Andrew the First-Called.

The Apostle Matthias journeyed after this to Amasia, a city on the shore of the sea. During a three year journey of the Apostle Andrew, Saint Matthias was with him at Edessa and Sebasteia. According to Church tradition, he was preaching at Pontine AEthiopia (presently Western Georgia) and Macedonia.

He was frequently subjected to deadly peril, but the Lord preserved him alive to further preach the Gospel. One time pagans forced the apostle to drink a poison potion. The apostle drank it and not only did he himself remain unharmed, but he also healed other prisoners which had been blinded by the potion. When Saint Matthias left the prison, the pagans searched for him in vain – since he had become invisible to them. Another time, when the pagans had become enraged intending to kill the apostle, the earth opened up and engulfed them.”
From “The Lives of the Saints”

Historians suggest that the Apostle Matthias was crucified at Gonio, near Batumi in Ajara, and buried there. Saint Dorotheus, the Bishop of Tyre in Lebanon during the reigns of Diocletian, Saint Constantine the Great and Julian the Apostate, wrote a detailed account of the lives of the saints, including the Apostle Matthias. He mentions, “Matthias preached the Gospel to barbarians and meat-eaters in the interior of Ethiopia, where the sea harbor of Hyssus is, at the mouth of the river Phasis. He died at Sebastopolis, and was buried there, near the Temple of the Sun.”

The Roman fortress of Gonio is still standing, and his grave is marked within.

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