Beloved brothers and sisters,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
FROM THE ORDER OF PREPARATION
Having beheld the Resurrection of Christ, let us worship the Holy Lord Jesus, the Only Sinless One. We venerate Your Cross, O Christ, and Your Holy Resurrection we praise and glorify; for You are Our God, we know no other; it is Your Name we invoke. Come, all You faithful, let us worship Christ's Resurrection; for behold, through the Cross joy has come to all the world. Ever blessing the Lord, let us praise His Resurrection. For in enduring the Cross for us, He destroyed death by death.
You dwelt bodily in the tomb, in spirit as God in Hades, with the thief in Paradise, O Christ, enthroned with the Father and the Spirit, the infinite fulfilling all things.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
As life-bearing, more beautiful than Paradise, indeed more brilliant than any royal chamber, was Your tomb, O Christ, the fountainhead of our resurrection.
Now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Hail, hallowed temple of the Most High; for through you, Theotokos, was joy given to those who cry: Blessed are you among women, Most Pure Lady.
"Then He said to Thomas, 'Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.' And Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, 'Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (St. John 20:27-29)
SAINT THOMAS-THE APOSTLE FULL OF FAITH AN EXEGESIS OF ST. JOHN 20:19-31
In the Orthodox Church, the feast day of Saint Thomas, the faithful disciple of the Risen Lord, also known as 'the twin' (didimus) is celebrated precisely one week after Pascha-that is, on the Sunday following Pascha, which is known both as the 'Sunday of Thomas' and the "After-feast of Pascha" (Antipascha). Even though popular piety has wrongly attributed to him names such as the 'doubting' or 'faithless' Thomas because of his alleged suspicions concerning the Resurrection of Jesus, his place in the Liturgical cycle of feasts affirms a radically different theological vision of Saint Thomas the Apostle full faith. Indeed, a correct exegetical examination of the Gospel passage which is heard on the 'Sunday of Thomas' (St. John 20:19-31) will confirm St. Thomas' profound depth of faith, expressed, as we shall see, in his confession in the Divinity of the Risen Jesus. This exegesis will be carried out in two complementary stages: whereas the first will examine the passage from a literary perspective as this will shed light on the Evangelist's true purpose for including the Thomas narrative in the Gospel, the second will reflect theologically on the person of Saint Thomas based on an interpretation of the Biblical text itself.
It has to be admitted that Saint Thomas' ecstatic declaration of faith in Jesus Christ in terms of 'My Lord and my God' (St. John 20:28) is one of the most profound pronouncement of the Deity of Jesus in the entire corpus of the New Testament since it not only attributes to Christ the highest Christological title in terms of His Divinity [Jesus Christ is referred to as 'God'] but also demonstrates the unconditional acceptance of St. Thomas in the Risen Lord [this is seen in the use of 'my God'-the predicate of dedication]. In this way, far from being a story ostensibly about the lack of faith on the part of this holy Apostle, the fourth Gospel writer presented St. Thomas as a man who desired nothing less than a personal and palpable encounter with the Risen Lord. And the reason why St. Thomas wanted nothing less than immediate encounter with the Risen Lord was so that he could see for himself the continuity with Jesus that he had known during His earthly life before His crucifixion-as opposed to One Who had mysteriously risen and left the disciples orphaned. Therefore, throughout the episode involving the Apostle Thomas the most important dimension of the self-revelation of Jesus as both the Risen Lord and God is accordingly given. However, before looking specifically at the passage in question, a few brief remarks from other passages in the New Testament, where St. Thomas is mentioned, will show the fidelity and trust in Jesus Christ even before His Resurrection.
The fidelity and courageous character of St. Thomas is seen in other episodes in the Gospel of Saint John. Two such examples are the following: firstly, upon hearing that Lazarus had 'fallen asleep', Jesus told the disciples that He would return to Judea to bring Lazarus back to life. Whilst the Gospel of St. John records the disciples alerting Jesus of the dangers of the journey, since the Jews were trying to stone Jesus, the Evangelist notes the Apostle Thomas, expressing his willingness even to die together with Jesus is totally incompatible with a person characterized by doubt, hesitation and skepticism. A second episode in which the spiritual insight and unwavering faith of St. Thomas in Jesus is verified is when the Resurrected Lord appeared to seven of His disciples after His Resurrection-St. Thomas being one of them. When Jesus showed Himself to these seven Apostles by the Sea of Tiberias and told them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat (cf St. John 21:6), since they had caught nothing all night, the Gospel records that they obeyed Jesus immediately. Again such a response by St. Thomas (together with the other disciples) would have nothing to do with a person who had doubted or lacked faith in Jesus. These two episodes, together with St. Thomas' encounter with the Risen Lord eight days after the Resurrection, will demonstrate without doubt St. Thomas' profound depth of faith in Jesus Christ.
The Thomas story (verses 24-29) occurs immediately after the appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene (verses 11-18). It is precisely within this context that the reader would know that the Evangelist would have wanted to show that, just as Jesus had led Mary Magdalene on her journey to faith, so too would He now lead Thomas to an unconditional faith. That is to say that, just as Mary Magdalene and the Myrrh-bearing women in general were the first witnesses to the empty tomb and announced its meaning to the disciples, so too would St. Thomas bring the Christian faith in the Resurrection to its climax becoming in this way a bridge for future believers. Even from this brief yet succinct literary analysis, one can see that the Thomas narrative, which is intertwined with dialogue is part of the Evangelist's central purpose: namely to record the appearance of the Risen Lord to an increasing number of people and to lead them to a faith which is not dependent upon seeing. This is to say, the Evangelist wanted to emphasize that just as St. Thomas was an Apostle who embraced the Risen Christ, so too were subsequent communities to do the same, since faith in the Lord was not purely dependent upon 'seeing'.
With sincere agape in our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God