The account of the life of St. Fulvianus (Fulvian)-Matthew is included with that of the life of the Apostle and Evangelist St. Matthew, who is also commemorated on November 16th, and whose name the converted pagan Prince of Ethiopia received at his Baptism.
After the Holy Apostle Matthew brought the Gospel of Christ to Syria, Media, Persia and Parthia, he went to Africa. Here he finished his evangelization for the Lord in Ethiopia, where he was martyred. Initially, St. Matthew converted some of the pagan idol-worshipers to faith in Christ and founded Christ’s Holy Church in Ethiopia, building a temple in the city of Mirmena, and establishing there as bishop his assistant, Platon.
After this, when the Holy Apostle was fervently entreating God for the conversion of the Ethiopians, the Lord Himself appeared to him in the form of a youth. He gave him a staff, and commanded him to plant it at the doors of the church. The Lord said that a tree would grow from this staff and it would bear fruit, and from its roots would flow a stream of water. When the Ethiopians would wash themselves in the water and eat the fruit, they would lose their wild ways and become gentle and good.
When the Holy Apostle carried the staff towards the church, he was met by the wife and son of the ruler of the land, Prince Fulvian (or Fulvianus), who were afflicted by unclean spirits. In the Name of Christ the Holy Apostle healed them. This miracle converted a number of the pagans to the Lord. But the Prince of Ethiopia did not want his subjects to become Christians and cease worshipping the pagan gods. He accused the apostle of sorcery and gave orders to execute him.
They hung St. Matthew head down, piled up brushwood and ignited it. When the fire flared up, everyone saw that the fire did not harm St. Matthew. Then Fulvian gave orders to add more wood to the fire, and frenzied with boldness, he commanded that twelve idols be set up around the fire. But the flames melted the idols and flared up toward Fulvian. The frightened Ethiopian Prince 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 departed to the Lord.
The ruler, Prince Fulvian, deeply repented of his deed, but still he had doubts. By his command, they put the body of St. 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 sufficient reason to worship Matthew’s God as the One True God, and become a Christian.
That night the Apostle Matthew appeared to Bishop Platon in a dream, and commanded him to go with clergy to the shore of the sea and to find his body there. The righteous Fulvian and his retinue went with the bishop to the shore of the sea, where they found St. Matthew’s iron coffin that had been carried there by the waves. They brought the coffin with the Apostle’s relics to the church built by the Apostle. Then Fulvian begged forgiveness of the Holy Apostle Matthew, after which Bishop Platon baptized him, giving him the name of the Apostle Matthew, in obedience to a command of God.
The new Christian Prince Matthew dedicated his life to converting his people to the True Faith. Soon St. Fulvian-Matthew abdicated his rule and was ordained a priest. Upon the death of Bishop Platon, the Apostle Matthew appeared to him and instructed him to be consecrated as Bishop and to be the head the Ethiopian Church. Having become a bishop, St. Fulvian-Matthew labored at preaching the Word of God to his African people for the rest of his life, continuing the work of his heavenly patron.
By Sister Ioanna, St. Innocent of Alaska Monastic Community, Redford, Michigan
The icon at the top was written/painted by Fr. Theodore Jurewicz of Erie, PA.