Posted by: Fr Chris | April 19, 2020

THE EIGHTH DAY AND ST THOMAS THE APOSTLE

The Assurance of Thomas | Believing not Doubting | A Reader's ...

Jesus comes to the Upper Room to visit the apostles and instruct them. Thomas is not there, as he is presumably out on errands. He cannot bring himself to believe, despite the apostles’ urging. He says those fateful words, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Christ knew all things, as we often saw in the Gospels. Still He comes to Thomas, and confirms his faith by physically being there. Thomas is thus able to cry out, “My Lord and my God.” Right now Jesus cannot come to us in the Holy Eucharist due to Covid-19. But He can come to us in our hearts, through what we read, what we watch, how we pray. God remains close to us at all times, knocking on the doors of our hearts.

It is so hard for us to be away from Holy Communion, but remember those who suffered in the underground in Protestant Britain for over 200 years; in communist nations of both Europe and still today in Asia and Cuba; in regions where a priest can only come a few times a year. They remained faithful to the Church, they kept up their prayer life, and in the end were greatly rewarded with strong faith and many blessings. On this joyful day of faith, let us keep our faith that, no matter what, Christ our God is with  us.

THOMAS SUNDAY ICON DESCRIPTION

It is worth noting that the inscriptions of Icons of this event never say “Unbelief” or “Doubting” regarding Thomas. In Greek, the inscription reads Η ψηλάφηση του Θωμά, that is, the “Touching of Thomas”, making no reference to Thomas’ doubt and implying Jesus touching Thomas, both in body and soul, and not the other way around.  In Slavic icons, the meaning is even clearer because the inscriptions always read Уверение Фомы, i.e. the “Assurance of Thomas”.

Today is the eighth day after Pascha. It is the eighth day of the Resurrection, and it is the commemoration of the appearance of the Risen Lord to the apostles and most especially, Thomas, who doubted the testimony of the apostles and holy women and insisted he would not believe unless “I put my fingers into the wounds” of Jesus’ body.  Eight is significant in Christian theology, as it signifies more than completion, more than fullness – it is the Kingdom of God and the life of the world to come. This is the eighth day of Pascha, and Thomas now understands exactly Who Jesus, and that His Kingdom is beyond earthly time!

From about 70 AD the Christians called the day of Pascha the eighth day.  While seven denotes fullness (thus there are seven Holy Mysteries/ Sacraments), eight means more than completion, more than fullness.

Eight means the Kingdom of God and the new life to come, the new time of kairos, or sacred time. In these forty days, the Church goes beyond normal time, or chronos, and celebrates the power of Jesus’ resurrection.

This is because Christ was raised from the dead on the first day of the week (Sunday). This day quickly came to be experienced as the first day of the new creation, the day which has no evening, the day of the Kingdom, the everlasting day of God.

His death on the cross has ‘put death to death’, since “death took in a body and encountered God,” as St John Chrysostom says in his exquisite Paschal Homily. Death itself is abolished, and Christ has become the first fruits of the new creation.

We can preach and celebrate all of this not because it happened once upon a time, but because it has been accomplished for all time. Thus, when the Church speaks of Pascha, the resurrection of Christ, it is always in the present tense. “Christ is Risen!” the priest cries out. From the nave of the church the people, the royal priesthood, joyously respond, “Indeed He is Risen!”

Thinking Anew: Lessons in faith from Doubting Thomas

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