October 6, 2013

Saint Thomas the Apostle as a Model for our Lives

St. Thomas the Apostle (Feast Day - October 6 and the First Sunday after Pascha)

By Protopresbyter Fr. George Papavarnavas

The Apostle Thomas belonged to a family of fishermen and was numbered among the choir of the Twelve Apostles. He is primarily known from the fact that he asked to see and touch the marks of the nails on the hands and the wound on the side of Christ.

As is known, the Apostle Thomas was absent when Christ, after His Resurrection, visited His Disciples in the upper room where they were gathered together. When he was informed about the visit of Christ, he asked to see and touch the wounds from the Cross on His hands and side. When this meeting finally took place eight days later, Thomas confessed Him to be his Lord and God.

On Resurrection Sunday, during the Vespers of Love, the Gospel reading is read in all the Sacred Churches, even in various languages, which refers to the visit of Christ to His Disciples when Thomas was absent.

The Apostle Thomas, after Pentecost, preached the gospel to the Parthians, the Persians, the Medes and the Indians. His life ended in martyrdom. First he was thrown into prison. Then he was given over to five soldiers, who took him up a mountain where they slew him by piercing his body with spears. The sacred hymnographer, describing the martyric end of the Apostle Thomas, addressed Christ, saying characteristically: "Thomas, who asked to put his hand on Your side, for You is pierced on his side."

The facts of his life, primarily those related to his faith and the manner in which it was expressed, give us the opportunity to emphasize the following:

First, the view has been held that the Apostle Thomas was an unbeliever, because he asked to see with his eyes and touch with his hands the Risen Christ. Of course, he said the words we all know: "Unless I see... I will not believe", but he was not an unbeliever in the sense that he was an atheist and doubted the Resurrection of Christ. He was informed by the other Apostles about the Resurrection of Christ, as well as His visit "while the doors were shut". He also wanted to have a personal experience of this wonderful event. He wanted a personal encounter with the Risen Christ, to enjoy the blessing of His presence and go from faith by hearing to faith by theoria (vision).

"According to the teachings of our Fathers, Thomas was not an unbelieving Apostle in the way we think of or mean by the word unbelief, but he wanted to go from a faith by hearing to a faith by theoria (vision). Faith by hearing is the faith associated with information given by others. The Disciples assured the Apostle Thomas they had seen Christ, but he was not content in this belief but he wanted a faith by theoria, he wanted to personally see Christ. So Christ gave him a whole week to be catechized and then He appeared to give him the faith by theoria. Then Thomas said: 'My Lord and my God.'" (Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou, Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "Sermons for August", July-August 2003.)

Second, when Christ visited His Disciples again after eight days, He invited the Apostle Thomas to touch the marks of the wounds of His Body. Then the Apostle Thomas recognized Him and confessed Him Lord and God. He recognized Him by the wounds of the Cross, which are a sign of His love and His power. The Holy Fathers call the confession of Thomas salvific. Truly it leads to salvation all those who flee to Christ asking humbly for His mercy.

A Christ without the marks of the nails on His Body is not a true Christ. The Antichrist will resemble Christ on the outside, but he will not have the marks of the Cross. According to one Patristic interpretation, the original numbers χ ξ στ' (666), which refer to the Antichrist, means "χριστός ξένος σταυρού" (christ without cross).

Christ is recognized by the marks of the wounds of the Cross. And the genuine Disciples of Christ are also recognized by the marks of the Cross of Christ, which each one lifts willingly. Besides, there is no one in this life who does not bear their own cross.And when they refuse the light Cross of Christ, then they lift the heavy cross of sin.

True faith is directly connected with love and pain. Anyone who has found Christ within them, through obedience to the Church, they confess Him daily with their lives and literally melt from their love of God and neighbor.

Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, "ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΟΣ ΘΩΜΑΣ", October 2003. Translated by John Sanidopoulos.