Early Christians often gathered on the name day of a saint – usually the date of his/her death. Originally held at a shrine or gravesite, many of these gatherings eventually evolved into festivals in honour of the saint, thus becoming known as feast days.
Churches, towns, and guilds all had patron saints and held celebrations on their saint’s feast day. In Greece and other predominantly Eastern Orthodox countries, few people celebrate their birthdays, but almost everyone celebrates their name day (the name they are baptized with). Honouring a particular saint and the spirit and values he/she represents can be a creative way to connect with family and friends.
No one was more shunned by the Jews than publicans, (tax collectors) who were Jews working for the Roman enemy by robbing their own people and making a large personal profit. Publicans were not allowed to trade, eat, or even pray with other Jews.
One day, while Matthew was seated at his table of books and money, Jesus looked at him and said two words: “Follow me.” This was all that was needed to make Matthew rise, leaving his pieces of silver, to follow Christ. His original name, Levi, signifies “adhesion” in Hebrew, while his new name in Christ, Matthew, means “gift of God.” Matthew would have been at the dinner party for Christ and his companions to which he invited his fellow tax-collectors. The Jews were surprised to see Jesus with a publican, but Jesus explained that he had come “not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
St. Matthew is known to us principally as an Evangelist, with his Gospel being the first in the New Testament. His Gospel was written in Aramaic, the language that our Lord spoke and was written to convince the Jews that their
anticipated Messiah had come in the person of Jesus.
Matthew the tax collector,
Left all his worldly gain
To rise and follow Jesus
He tells us ‘Do the same!’
The good news of our Saviour
His gospel words declare;
May we forsake what’s passing,
His risen life to share
A verse from on old hymn
A collect for St. Matthew’s Day
We thank you, heavenly Father, for the witness of your apostle and evangelist Matthew to the Gospel of your Son our Saviour; and we pray that, after his example, we may with ready wills and hearts obey the calling of our Lord to
follow him; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.