Today is the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle. A few fragments about him…
Thanks for the Beatitude, Tom!
Though he is so often known as the doubter, he is certainly no different than his apostolic brothers who also doubted not only the Magdalene’s testimony, but also still doubted even in the midst of worship after 40 days of resurrection appearances! We are most grateful to Thomas for his bold request to see and touch the Lord’s risen body because from that desire came Jesus’ wonderful and final beatitude: “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” That’s us!
And from that empirical encounter, Thomas offered a most extraordinary confession of Christ’s identity: “My Lord and my God!” How revealing that it was the probing of the un-healed Wounds that convinced him of Jesus’ divine identity. A lifetime of meditation.
Thomas was also called Didymus, the “Twin” — likely because Didymus, the Greek word for twin, simply translates the Aramaic meaning of Toma, which also means twin. But another tradition has it that Thomas was given the Greek nickname because he looked like Jesus; a tradition reflected in some of the iconographic tradition. I like that one.
From history, Thomas is best known for his unbounded zeal for spreading the Gospel to the ‘ends of the earth’ as he managed his way to Rome’s far-east trading outposts in India where there were some sizable Jewish diaspora communities. By tradition, he had great success and established a number of churches.
One of my favorite stories about Thomas in India, from among the many historically dubious stories that arose in the first few centuries after his death, is his response to a king’s request that Thomas (known as a skilled craftsman) build him a palace. Thomas, wishing to teach this king, spent all of the money given him by the king on alms for the poor, to whom his preached the Gospel. In response to the king’s enraged response, Thomas said, “I have built for you an imperishable palace in the heavens.”
A true Forerunner of India’s Great Saint of Charity, no doubt.
The history of the Christian communities in India is both fascinating and tragic.
And the eucharistic liturgies of India, deeply influenced by those of the Church of Syria, are quite spectacular and some of these liturgical Rites celebrated in the Catholic Church of India traditionally trace themselves back to Thomas. Take a moment to watch: