Saint Matthias is omitted because this list was made at Rome, and the preference for Saint Paul is easily understood. Saint Paul, formerly called Saul, was born in the commercial city of Tarsus, and enjoyed the rights of a Roman citizen. He first appears in the Scriptures as the young man who held the garments of those stoning Saint Stephen to death (Acts 8; 1-9). In the Acts Saint Luke tells us of Saint Paul’s missionary journeys, his sufferings and imprisonments, shipwreck and dangers, of his tireless zeal and ceaseless efforts to prove himself an Apostle. It is in his own fourteen Epistles that we glimpse the soul of this ardent lover of Christ.
It is believed that Saint Paul was martyred in Rome on the same day as Saint Peter, and so these two are inseparably united in the liturgy, sharing the same feastday. Saint Paul, being a Roman citizen, did not suffer the ignominious death of the cross. He was beheaded.
“The Tiber on entering Rome,” writes an ancient poet, “salutes the basilica of Saint Peter and, on leaving it, that of Saint Paul. Rome is between the two.” The Liturgy recalls the Dedication of these two Basilicas on 18th November.
The liturgy links Saint Peter, the new Moses, the leader of the new Israel, with Saint Paul, the new Aaron, more eloquent than the first, a vessel of election to bring the grace of Christ to the Gentiles. Their joint feast is on 29th June.