Saint Thomas Sunday – 2019

Christ is risen!

My dear friends in our Lord: Now that we have festively celebrated that great and bright Sunday which is the holy and honourable day of the Resurrection and the saving victory of our Lord, offering the joyous sacrifice of praise with our voices, and having sung the hymns of triumph, and having forgiven each other everything, having spent this past week as if it were one day, one great feast; today we again renew the celebration of the Resurrection, this Sunday of Saint Thomas, also called Antipascha and New Sunday in the East, and Low Sunday in the west. Today is both the eighth day and the first day; it is the eighth day from the most glorious Resurrection of Christ, and the first Lord’s Day to follow it. Thus, it is an image of that age which is at once the first and the eighth, which will follow the ages of the present world, an image of the one never-ending day of the world to come. On the Sunday just past, Christ rose from the dead, while on the present Sunday we celebrate the future incorruption of every human creature.

Last Sunday pointed to the first coming of Christ and His glorious Resurrection, whereas this Sunday points to Christ’s Second Coming. For at Christ’s first appearance to the disciples, Saint Thomas, called the Twin, was not present, and thus did not believe. But at Christ’s second appearance Saint Thomas, too, was present, and when he saw the marks of Christ’s hands, his unbelief was changed into belief. As the Evangelist Saint John the Theologian says:

When it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them: Peace be to you.

Christ appeared to the disciples when it was already evening. He waited for them all to gather together after they had dispersed for fear of the Jews. He appears all of a sudden, unexpectedly, and in a most wondrous manner, the doors being shut, and He stands in the midst of the disciples, in order to show that God has power to do whatever He wishes, and has power over all matter, all place, and all time. By Our Lord’s sudden and most glorious entry through the closed doors He shows that He is God by nature and can do all things that He wishes to do. By baring the side of His body and showing the marks of the Nails, Christ made known to all that He had truly raised up the temple of His Body which had been hung on the Cross. And all the disciples saw Christ as He stood in their midst and bestowed upon them peace, complete calm, and passionlessness. Therefore, dear friends, if we also wish the Lord to come to us as He came to His apostles and disciples while the doors were shut, let us strive to close the doors – all our senses. Let us keep our mouths closed with a resolute good silence, because every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. Let us guard our eyes, that they might not gaze with passion or curiosity, but with chastity and reverence. Let us restrain our ears from listening to corrupt and detestable words; let us not allow our ears to pay heed to anyone who spreads calumny and slander, or blasphemy and falsehood. Let us keep our hands pure and undefiled, stretching them out to God in prayer and for acts of justice and kindness, and not for taking what belongs to others or for violence. Let us guide our feet into the way of peace, to carry out the divine commandments of Christ; let them not be bold and hasty to run to do evil.

And when He had said this, He shewed them His hands and His side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord.

Christ showed the disciples His hands, His feet, and His side, making known to them and assuring them – and us – that He was not some phantom, but truly a body which is visible, that He is truly the same One Who was crucified and died, and that He is risen as He foretold.

He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you.

Our Lord gives his disciples consolation in keeping with, and equal to, their struggle. He gives the disciples peace, on account of the battle they faced, which others would also face later in preaching the Word. He greets His disciples once more with the words, saying: Peace be to you, thereby laying down a kind of law for the children of the Church, even to our own day. Our Lord desires – commands – that we should be at peace with one another and with God; for this is the source and origin of everything good. There is nothing superior to, or sweeter than peace and genuine love; there is nothing more beneficial and beautiful than unity and oneness. For God Himself is love; so He is called, and so He is. And we have received the peace of God, which passes all understanding.

Then, as the Lord is consoling the disciples, He also emboldens them saying:

As the Father hath sent Me, I also send you.

Thus the disciples undertake the Lord’s work with this mission, this sending forth. Just as our Lord did everything for the salvation of the human race, and finally willed even to suffer with us for our sake, destroying the bondage of death, so also it behooves those who are sent out to preach to traverse the entire earth diligently, to proclaim and announce the great good news to all men, and to labour and strive for this even unto death.

When He had said this, He breathed on them; and He said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.

Immediately, the, our Lord also sanctifies his apostles and bestows upon them the Holy Spirit; with His visible act of breathing He disposes them to receive the Holy Spirit. He confers upon them power to forgive sins. After the Ascension, the Holy Spirit Himself descended and gave them all their powers and functions. In breathing upon them, Christ showed that He is the Creator of our nature. For, as Moses says, God formed the man of dust of the earth, and breathed upon his face the breath of life. Inasmuch as Adam through disobedience was brought down to death, having slipped and fallen from his former honour, Christ renewed him again; He did away with death by the Death of His Body, and returned man to his original dignity by breathing upon him.

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, who is called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him: We have seen the Lord. But he said to them: Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.

Christ, the Master, had come, but Thomas, the servant, was not there. Now, speaking from history we know that Saint Thomas was not absent in vain, but that the mystery of the Lord’s Resurrection might be revealed more surely and powerfully. If Thomas had been present with the others, he would not have doubted, and he would not have sought to touch Christ. If he had not touched Christ, he would not have arrived at such faith. If he had not become a believer himself, he could not have taught others to believe. Therefore, the disbelief of Thomas became an agent of our Faith.

And after eight days again His disciples were within, and Thomas with them. Jesus cometh, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said: Peace be to you. Then He saith to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither, and see My hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into My side; and be not faithless, but believing.

Our Lord enters through closed doors, stands in the midst and gives the disciples peace. Then, bypassing all others, He approaches the doubting Thomas like a kind father who loves his children, desiring to make known to him His holy Resurrection from the dead. For the sake of one soul He shows Himself with the wounds he bore; He comes to save the one disbelieving disciple. He did not even wait for Saint Thomas himself to say anything, but rather offered immediately what Saint Thomas was seeking.

Thomas answered, and said to Him: My Lord, and my God. Jesus saith to him: Because thou hast seen Me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed.

When Saint Thomas heard the words of the Lord and touched Him, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and with joy. He reversed his unbelief, rejected his doubting thoughts, repelled despondency, and cried out, confessing Jesus Christ to be Lord and God.

To teach us that true faith consists in accepting things unseen with belief, the Lord said: Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. It is not only the disciples whom Christ calls blessed here, but also all who will believe in times to come. Though it is written: Blessed are the eyes which have seen the Lord, He shows that it is even more blessed to believe without seeing, and that those who have not seen will not be any poorer that those who have seen.

Many other signs also did Jesus in the sight of His disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God: and that believing, you may have life in His name.

John the Evangelist and Theologian speaks of fewer signs than the other apostles in his writings, but he had recounted that which was sufficient to lead his hearers to believe. One who does not believe what has already been said will not accept or believe the many other thing that could be said; while one who accepts these things will not require anything else in order to convince him.

Therefore, my friends, let us consecrate ourselves this day, let us come back to our senses and be renewed. Christ died and rose again that we might not die through sin, but might walk in newness of life, glorifying and thanking Christ our true Lord and God, Who orders all things for our welfare, and to Whom be glory and dominion, together with His unoriginate Father, and the Most Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

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