My brothers and sisters in Christ God,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
On the 16th of November, the Holy Orthodox Church
commemorates the Holy Apostle and Evangelist\
MATTHEW, the holy Apostle and Evangelist, the son of Alphaeus, otherwise known as Levi, lived in the Galilaean city of Capernaum. He was a man of means and held a position as a tax collector. His compatriots despised and shunned him, as they did all who were similarly employed; but Matthew, although he was a sinner, was nevertheless no worse than many of the Pharisees who prided themselves on their outwardly seeming righteousness. But, lo! The Lord brought His Divine gaze to rest upon this tax collector, who was disdained by all. One day, while He was sojourning in Capernaum, the Lord left the city and went down to the sea in the company of many people. On the shore thereof He saw Matthew sitting in his customs booth; and sHe said to him, "Follow thou Me" (Matthew 9:9). Hearing these words of the Lord not only with the ears of his body, but with the ears of his heart as well, the tax collector straightway rose from his place and, leaving all behind, followed after Christ. Matthew did not stop to consider, nor was he amazed, that the Great Teacher and Wonder-Worker had summoned him, a hated tax collector; but, with all his heart he took His words to himself and unwaveringly followed Him. Moreover, the Lord did not spurn his invitation but entered Matthew’s house. There gathered in Matthew’s home a multitude of his neighbors, all of them tax collectors and sinners; and they sat down at table with Jesus and His Disciples. There also happened to be present certain of the Scribes and Pharisees who, seeing that the Lord was not shunning the sinners and tax collectors but was reclining with them, murmured and said to His Disciples, "Why eateth your Teacher with the tax collectors and sinners?" (Matthew 9:17). And the Lord, hearing their words, said to them, "THEY WHO ARE STRONG HAVE NO NEED OF A PHYSICIAN, BUT THEY WHO ARE ILL. BUT GO AND LEARN WHAT THIS IS, ‘I WISH MERCY, AND NOT SACRIFICE (cf. Hos. 6:7 (6). ‘FOR I CAME NOT TO CALL THE RIGHTEOUS, BUT SINNERS TO REPENTANCE’ (Matthew 9:12-13).
Thenceforth, Matthew, forsaking all his possessions, followed after Christ and, as His faithful Disciple, did not part from Him thereafter. Soon he was accounted worthy of being numbered among the Choir of the Twelve chosen Apostles. In company with the other Disciples of the Lord, Matthew joined Him on His journeys throughout Galilee and Judea, hearkened to His Divine Teaching, beheld His countless miracles, went forth to preach to the lost sheep of the House of Israel, and was a witness of the Savior’s suffering on the Cross, His REDEMPTIVE DEATH, and His Most Glorious Ascension into Heaven.
After the Lord’s Divine Ascension and the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, the holy Matthew remained at first in Palestine preaching the Gospel in Jerusalem and its environs. together with the other Apostles. Yet, behold! The time came for the Apostles to disperse from Jerusalem to various other lands, to convert them to the Christian Faith. Before Matthew departed from Jerusalem the Jewish Christians of that city besought him to set down in writing for them the acts and teachings of Jesus Christ. The other Apostles then living in Jerusalem expressed their approval of such an undertaking, and Saint Matthew, in fulfillment of the common desire, wrote his Gospel in the Hebrew (Aramaic) dialect, some eight years after the Divine Ascension of Christ.
After departing from Jerusalem, the holy Apostle Matthew preached the glad tidings of the Gospel in many lands. Proclaiming the Good News of Christ, he passed through Macedonia, Syria, Persia, Parthia, and Media, establishing Churches there and in other places. He underwent many tortures, thirst, hunger, and scourgings, all of which he endured, for God was his helper. He traveled all about Ethiopia, which had fallen to him by lot, and enlightened it with the Light of the knowledge of the Gospel. Finally, guided by the Holy Spirit, he arrived in the land of the cannibals, who were dark-skinned and savage people. There he entered a city known as Mirmena and, after he had converted several souls in Christ, appointed Platon, his fellow traveler, to be their bishop, and built a little church. The holy Apostle, burdened with tribulations, dangers, and hardships by these people, thought to find quiet in some place. He, therefore, ascended a mountain situated not far away and abided there in fasting, earnestly entreating God for the conversion of that unbelieving nation. There the Lord appeared to him in the guise of a youth of great comeliness, Who held in His right hand a staff and greeted him. Extending His right hand and handing the Saint His staff, He commanded him to go down from the mountain and plant the staff at the doors of the church he had constructed. "This staff," said the Lord, "through My power, grow into a lofty tree, and the tree shall bring forth abundant fruit, surpassing all the other fruits of the orchard in magnificence and sweetness, and from its root, a spring of pure water shall flow forth. Washing in the water of that spring, the cannibals shall receive comeliness of visage, and everyone that but tasteth of that fruit shall forget his bestial habits and shall become a good and meek person."
After taking the staff from the Lord’s hand, Matthew descended the mountain and betook himself to the city to carry out that which had been commanded him. The wife and son of Fulvian, the Prince of that city, were possessed by demons. Encountering the Apostle along the way, they cried out against him with wild, threatening voices, "Who has sent thee here with that staff, for our destruction?" The Apostle rebuked the unclean spirits and expelled them, and those who were healed fell down before the Apostle and meekly followed after him. Upon learning of his arrival, Bishop Platon went forth to meet him with his clergy, and the holy Matthew, entering the city and drawing near to the church, did as he had been commanded. He planted the staff which the Lord had given him in the ground, and straightway, in the presence of all, the staff became a great tree which spread forth branches of goodly foliage, and thereon there appeared beautiful fruit, large and sweet; and a spring of water flowed from beneath its roots. The entire city gathered to behold such a miracle, and they partook of the fruit of the tree and drank the pure water. The holy Apostle Matthew, standing on a high place, preached to the assembled multitude the Word of God in their own language, and all came immediately to believe in God, and the holy Apostle baptized them in the miraculous spring. As the Lord had promised, all the cannibals who were baptized left the waters comely of countenance; and they received not only bodily cleansing but purification and beauty of soul as well, having put off the old man and arrayed themselves in Christ, the new Man.
When he was informed of what had transpired, Prince Fulvian at first rejoiced over the healing of his spouse and son, at the prompting of the demons, he became enraged at the Apostle because the whole city was going over to him, forsaking its gods. He began thinking of Matthew’s destruction. But that very night, the Savior appeared to the holy Apostle, commanding him to take courage, and promising to remain with him throughout the impending suffering. Fulvian sent armed soldiers to arrest him, commending them to bring Matthew, to slay him. But the warriors returned empty-handed, because when they had drawn near the church, a heavenly Light illumined the Apostle, and the warriors were unable to see him. The Prince flew into a dreadful rage and went forth with a great number of his servants intending to lay hold of the Apostle himself. But no sooner that he managed to reach the Apostle than suddenly he was struck blind and had to ask for a guide. Then he besought the Apostle to forgive him his sin and to give light again to his blind eyes. The holy Apostle, making the sign of the Cross over the eyes of the Prince, restored his sight. Although his bodily eyes were healed, the eyes of his soul were not, they remained dark for they were blinded by malice.
The pagan and evil Prince inflicted numerous horrific tortures on the holy Apostle (e.g. stretching him out face down upon the ground, and affixing his hands and feet to the ground with spikes. placing on the Apostle pitch and brimstone and setting it afire, dousing him with dolphin oil, pitch, and tar, and tinder was set beneath him and the pyre was kindled. The flame took the form of a serpent threatening the Prince who was unable to flee and save himself from the danger and sought out help from the Saint. The Apostle rebuked the fire, and straightway the flame died down and the figure of the serpent vanished. Fulvian wished to bring the Saint out of the fire with honor, but the Apostle prayed, "Lord into Thy hands I surrender my soul!" and departed into heavenly bliss. The Prince ordered his servants to bring forth a golden bier and to set therein the precious body of the Apostle, which had not been burned by the flame. He had his nobles bore it up and carried it to his palace. Yet again even then he did not have perfect faith, and for this cause commanded that an iron coffin be forged and the holy relics of the Saint be placed inside of it. When this had been done, it was sealed on all sides with lead and cast into the sea. Fulvian said to his nobles, "If He that kept Matthew whole in the midst of the fire will preserve hi also from the depths of the sea, truly He is the only God, and Him will we worship, forsaking all our gods who were powerless to deliver us from destruction in the fire!"
No sooner had the iron coffin with the precious holy relics of Saint Matthew been cast into the seas, than the Saint appeared at night to Bishop Platon, saying, "Tomorrow go to the shore of the sea, to the east of the Prince’s palace and there take up my remains, which will have been borne to the dry land." In the morning the bishop, in company with a multitude of the faithful, set out for the indicated place. There they beheld the coffin riding high upon the waves, and they praised the Lord with hymns of jubilation. Upon learning thereof, the Prince and his nobles came and, this time fell down before the casket containing the holy relics of the Saint. Fulvian besought forgiveness and expressed a heartfelt desire to be baptized. Bishop Platon, perceiving the faith and fervor of Fulvian, then baptized him. And when he placed his hand on Fulvian’s head and was ready to utter his name, there came a voice from on high, saying, "Call him not Fulvian, but Matthew!"
Having thus received the Apostle’s name in Baptism, the Prince strove to emulate the life of the holy Apostle. Within seven days, he purged all his kingdom of pagan idols and smashed them, he devoutly reverenced the holy relics in a befitting manner and all of his subordinates were baptized. The Apostle then appeared in a vision to Bishop Platon and said, "Ordain the Prince a priest, and his son a deacon. After three years, you wilt depart to the Lord. Let the king, who bears my name, become a bishop, and let his son be his successor." After three years the holy Platon departed to the Lord. After he received ordination to the Episcopate, Bishop Matthew labored well in spreading the glad tidings of Christ, and, having converted man from idolatry, he brought them to God. Then he himself passed on to the Lord, after a long and God-pleasing life. And standing with the holy Evangelist Matthew before the Throne of God, he prays on our behalf to the Lord, that we also may be heirs of the Everlasting Kingdom of God. Anen.
[Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church]
"Glory Be To GOD
– Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God