Commemorated on November 16
Holy Apostle and Evangelist Matthew,
was also named Levi (Mk. 2: 14; Lk. 5: 27); he was an Apostle from among the
Twelve (Mk. 3: 18; Lk. 6: 45; Acts 1: 13), and was brother of the Apostle James
Alphaeus (Mk. 2: 14). He was a publican, i.e. a tax-collector for Rome, in a
time when the Jews had come under the rule of the Roman empire. He lived in the
Galileian city of Capernaum [Capharnum]. Matthew, in hearing the voice of Jesus
Christ: "Come, follow Me" (Mt. 9: 9), left off from his duties and
followed the Saviour. Christ and His disciples did not refuse the invitation of
Matthew and they visited at his house, where they shared table with the friends
and acquaintances of the publican – who like the host were publicans and known
sinners. This event extremely bothered the pharisees and scribes
["knizhniki", lit. bookmen or scholars].
in collecting taxes from their countrymen, did this with great profit for
themselves. Usually greedy and cruel people, the Jews considered them
pernicious and betrayers of their country and religion. The word
"publican" connoted for the Jews the sense of
"public-sinner" and "idol-worshipper". To even speak with a
tax-collector was considered a sin, and to associate with one – was
defilement. But the Jewish teachers were not able to comprehend, that the Lord
was "come to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Mt.
acknowledging his sinfulness, recompensed fourfold anyone he had overcharged,
and he distributed his remaining possessions to the poor, and together with the
other apostles he followed after Christ. Saint Matthew was attentive to the
instructions of the Divine Teacher, he beheld His innumerable miracles, he went
together with the 12 apostles preaching to "the lost sheep of the house of
Israel" (Mt. 10: 6), he was a witness to the suffering, death, and
Resurrection of the Saviour, and of His glorious Ascension into Heaven.
received the gifts of the grace of the Holy Spirit, which descended upon the
apostles on the day of Pentecost, the Apostle Matthew for the first 8 years
preached in Palestine. And before his departure to preach the Gospel in faraway
lands, at the request of the Jews remaining at Jerusalem, the holy Apostle
Matthew in his Gospel gave account of the earthly life of the Saviour of the
world – of the God-man Jesus Christ and His teaching.
the order of the books of the New Testament, the Gospel of Matthew comes first.
Palestine is said to be the place of writing of the Gospel. The Gospel was
written by Saint Matthew in the year 42 ([AD – "Anno Domini" or
"Year of the Lord",] i.e. after the Birth of Christ), in his native
Jewish language, and then translated into Greek. The Hebrew text has not
survived for us, but many of the linguistic and cultural-historical
peculiarities of the Greek translation remind of it.
Apostle Matthew preached among people having quite certain religious
expectations about the Messiah. His Gospel manifests itself as a vivid proof
that Jesus Christ – is the real Messiah, foretold of by the prophets, and that
another there would not be (Mt. 11: 3). The preachings and deeds of the Saviour
are presented by the evangelist in three divisions, constituting three aspects
of the service of the Messiah: as Prophet and Law-Giver (Ch. 5-7), Lord over
the world both visible and invisible (Ch. 8-25), and finally as High-Priest
offered as Sacrifice for the sins of all mankind (Ch. 26-27). The theological
content of the Gospel, besides the Christological themes, includes also the
teaching about the Kingdom of God and about the Church, which the Lord sets
forth in parables about the inner preparation for entering into the Kingdom
(Ch. 5-7), about the worthiness of servers of the Church in the world (Ch.
10-11), about the signs of the Kingdom and its growth in the souls of mankind
(Ch. 13), about the humility and simplicity of the inheritors of the Kingdom
(Mt. 18: 1-35; 19: 13-30; 20: 1-16; 25-27; 23: 1-28), and about the
eschatological revelations of the Kingdom in the Second Coming of Christ within
the daily spiritual life of the Church (Ch. 24-25). The Kingdom of Heaven and the
Church are closely inter-connected in the spiritual experience of Christianity:
the Church is the historical embodiment of the Kingdom of Heaven in the world,
and the Kingdom of Heaven is the Church of Christ in its eschatological
perfection (Mt. 16: 18-19; 28: 18-20).
holy Apostle made the rounds with the "good-news" [euangelia in Greek
or evangelium in Latin – the meaning of the word "gospel"] to Syria,
Media, Persia, Parthia, and finishing his preaching work in AEthiopia with a
martyr's death. This land was inhabited by tribes of cannibals with primitive
customs and beliefs. The holy Apostle Matthew by his preaching there converted
some of the idol-worshippers to faith in Christ. He founded the Church and
built a temple in the city of Mirmena, establishing there as bishop his
companion by the name of Plato(n).
the holy apostle was fervently beseeching God for the conversion of the
Ethiopians, during the time of prayer the Lord Himself appeared to him in the
form of a youth, and having given him a staff, commanded him to put it upright
at the doors of the church. The Lord said, that from this staff would grow a
tree and it would bear fruit, and from its roots would flow a stream of water.
And in washing themselves in the water and eating of the fruit, the Ethiopians
lost their wild ways and became gentle and good.
the holy apostle carried the staff towards the church, on the pathway there met
him the wife and son of the ruler of the land, Fulvian, who were
afflicted by unclean spirits. By the Name of Christ the holy apostle healed
them. This miracle converted to the Lord quite a number of the pagans. But the
ruler did not want that his subjects should become Christians and cease to
worship the pagan gods. He accused the apostle of sorcery and gave orders to
execute him. They put saint Matthew head downwards, heaped up brushwood and
ignited it. When the bonfire flared up, everyone then saw, that the fire did no
harm to Saint Matthew. Then Fulvian gave orders to add more wood to the fire,
and frenzied with boldness, he commanded to set up around the bonfire 12 idols.
But the flames spread to the idols and caught on even Fulvian. The frightened
Ethiopian turned to the saint with an entreaty for mercy, and by the prayer of
the martyr the flame went out. The body of the holy apostle remained unharmed,
and he expired to the Lord (+ 60).
ruler Fulvian deeply repented his deed, but still he had doubts. By his
command, they put the body of Saint Matthew into an iron coffin and threw it
into the sea. In doing this Fulvian said, that if the God of Matthew would
preserve the body of the apostle in the water, as He preserved him in the fire,
then this would be proper reason to worship this One True God.
that night the Apostle Matthew appeared to Bishop Platon in a dream vision, and
commanded him to go with clergy to the shore of the sea and to find his body
there. Together with the bishop on his way to the shore of the sea went
Righteous Fulvian and his retinue. The coffin carried back by the waves was
with honour taken to the church built by the apostle. Then Fulvian begged
forgiveness of the holy Apostle Matthew, after which Bishop Platon baptised
him, giving him the name Matthew in obedience to a command of God. Soon Saint
Fulvian-Matthew abdicated his rule and became a presbyter. Upon the death of
Bishop Platon, the Apostle Matthew appeared to him and exhorted him to head the
AEthiopian Church. Having become a bishop, Saint Matthew-Fulvian toiled much at
preaching the Word of God, continuing with the work of his heavenly
© 1996-2001 by translator Fr. S. Janos.