May 14th is the feast of St. Matthias. An apostle in the early church he is the first to follow in the succession established by Christ. The story, which can be found in Acts, tells of the Apostles led by Peter, seeking to replace their number. With the betrayal of Judas Iscariot, the 12 had been reduced to 11. Peter spoke to the remaining apostles and disciples and they ended up casting lots for a replacement. Matthias was chosen.
I remember hearing that Albert Einstein, commenting on the universe, made a statement about God not rolling dice, but it seems like He didn’t have a problem with drawing straws. And so begins the succession, which will become through history, the tradition of the Apostolic Church.
Matthias disappears as soon as he appears. Several early manuscripts mention him and don’t leave too much to go on. One tradition holds that he travelled to Ethiopia and was martyred there. Another that he died of old age in Jerusalem. The original date of his feast was Feb 24th, and is still held in some traditions. The Catholic Church changed his feast day to May 14th in Eastertide to line up with his calling in acts. An old tradition holds that St. Matthias’ day is the luckiest day of the year.
I suppose that for some, the idea that an apostle could be chosen by lot, may be uncomfortable. It may seem to imply a reckless approach to the very serious nature of such a holy undertaking as the Apostolic Succession. Luck, after all is something that contrasts with faith, but even here that strange paradox of freewill and predestination seems to bind these together in to what is necessary.