Thursday, 3 July 2008
Today is the feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle.
Poor Thomas always seems to get bad press as "Doubting Thomas". Saint John tells us that when the Resurrected Christ appeared to his disciples on the evening of Easter Day, Thomas was not present, leading to his disbelief when the others informed him of this wondrous event. A week later the Apostles were all gathered together in the house. Christ appeared amongst them. Thomas recognised Him and acknowledged Christ as "My Lord and my God!". Just as Peter proclaimed Jesus of Nazareth as Christ, so too St Thomas here proclaims clearly his and our acknowledgement of the Divinity of Christ; he is thus also called Thomas the Believer.
According to pious legend, it was St Thomas who witnessed the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. The apocryphal "The Passing of Mary" explains that the other apostles were present at the Virgin's deathbed, the Dormition, but that Thomas was characteristically late! It was only when the Apostles took him to Mary's grave that it was found empty.
St John of Damascus mentions it thus:
"St. Juvenal, Bishop of Jerusalem, at the Council of Chalcedon (451), made known to the Emperor Marcian and Pulcheria, who wished to possess the body of the Mother of God, that Mary died in the presence of all the Apostles, but that her tomb, when opened, upon the request of St. Thomas, was found empty; wherefrom the Apostles concluded that the body was taken up to heaven. "
A more generally accepted fact is that he evangelised vast swathes of the Middle East and India. Some modern Christians in India who trace their roots to his mission are know as the "Thomas Christians".