The Incredulity of St. Thomas (1601) by Caravaggio (1571-1610)
"Because you have seen Me, Thomas, you have believed."--Jn 20:29
Yesterday we heard the episode related by John the Theologian of that octave of Pascha, the week after Christ's Resurrection. When He rose, He appeared to many: to Mary Magdalane, to the other myrrhbearing women, to His apostles in the closed room, to His disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Yet to one in particular He did not appear in that first week: Thomas, called Twin (Didymos). Why Thomas was not with the rest of the Eleven in the upper room is unknown. All we know is the fact that he was not there. Because he was not there, He did not see the Lord's theophany that morning, and it was such a glorious happening that Thomas could not believe the news of it. Maybe he was a pessimist who was reluctant to believe such news; perhaps he was, as he is often presented now, a man who needed evidence. Regardless of his underlying thought, we know his declaration: "If not I see in His hands the place of the nail, and place my finger into the place of the nail, and place my hand into His side, not will I believe." It is such a direct statement that he even wished to touch the rib of Christ, if one translates it such, for it is the same word for that of which Eve was made. Thomas wanted to touch the rib of Him through Whom all things came to be, the rib revealed by Longinus' lance.
The greatest testament to Thomas is not his "scientific mindset" as some put it, his empiricism: no, his greatest testament is his reaction to Christ's theophany to him. He did not say, "Though I see the place of the nail and feel the flesh with my finger, I know I may be deceived." He did not say, echoing Emile Zola at Lourdes, "Though I saw the miracle for which I asked, still I do not believe." No, Thomas was faithful to the truth he witnessed: he realized what seemed impossible was true, and he did not reject it out of sheer disinclination to faith, but he believed. Even the tile of this event's icon, in Slavonic, reads "The Belief of Thomas." And Thomas' belief led him to proclaim the Truth abroad.
He spread the Gospel throughout Parthia and much of the East, after baptizing the Magi, but he is most known for planting the Church in India. Even to this day, Christians descended from his preaching call themselves St. Thomas Christians, as they declared themselves to be when St. Francis Xavier encountered them in his preaching in the East. The fruits of his work thus remain with us today in those Malabar Churches. In time, like the other Eleven, he was martyred, and his honorable relics repose in Mylapore, India, and in Edessa, Syria. Thus St. Ephraim, the Deacon of Edessa, recounts his glory in this manner:
"It was to a land of dark people he was sent,
to clothe them by Baptism in white robes.
His grateful dawn dispelled India's painful darkness.
It was his mission to espouse India to the One-Begotten.
The merchant is blessed for having so great a treasure.
Edessa thus became the blessed city
by possessing the greatest pearl India could yield.
Thomas works miracles in India, and at Edessa
Thomas is destined to baptize peoples
perverse and steeped in darkness, and that in the land of India."
The graces of God are not to be hoarded and barren but are given to be fruitful in abundance, and the revelation of Christ to Thomas was such a one. His Blessed Mother, too, revealed herself to Thomas, and thus we have the Arapet (Arabian) Icon of the Theotokos. The one moment of doubt Thomas felt is thus overwhelmed by his glorious belief that overflowed into all the East, irrigating the dry lands with the living water of Christ. Let us, then, believe as he did and pour forth the Gospel, so that Christ's blessing may redound on us: "Blessed those not seeing, and believing."
St. Thomas, the Holy, Glorious, and Illustrious Apostle to India, pray for us!
O Theotokos Arapet, pray for us!
Nota Bene: Information regarding St. Thomas was taken from the Wikipedia and Orthodox Wiki pages on him. The quote from St. Ephraim is found on St. Thomas' Wikipedia page. Information on the Arapet Theotokos is found at a..sinner. The reference to Emile Zola is to the story of his trip to Lourdes, when he stated, "I only want to see a cut finger dipped in water and come out healed," yet when he saw this he did not believe, later declaring, "Were I to see all the sick at Lourdes cured, I would not believe in a miracle." More information on this event can be found in "Belief and Unbelief I: Emile Zola at Lourdes" by George Sim Johnston, published in Crisis Magazine on December 1, 1989.