St.Thomas, the Apostle - July 3rd
- Mor Thoma, Apostle
One of the Twelve Apostles, St. Thomas is prominent in the Syriac
tradition. He is mentioned in all four Gospels. In St. John, he
appears in three episodes, namely offering to die with Jesus on
His way to Bethany (Jn 11:16), interrupting the last discourse
with his question, "Lord, we do not know where you are going, and
how can we know the way" (Jn 14:5) and, lastly, doubting the
Ressurection unless he were to touch the wounds of the Risen Lord
(Jn 20:25-8). After Christ's appearance he confesses his faith in
the words, 'My Lord and my God' and is thus the first to confess
His Divinity explicitly. According to an early tradition mentioned
by Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica 3.I) and others, the Apostle
evangelized the Parthians. According to the Gnostic Acts of Thomas
in Syriac, where he is called Judas Thomas, he brought the Gospels
to India where he was martyred and then buried at Mylapore, near
Chennai (Madras). It is believed that the Apostle arrived in India
in AD 52 and was martyred in AD 72. The Syriac Christians of
Malabar, the Southwest coast of India, call themselves 'Christians
of St. Thomas'. It is believed that his body was transferred to
Edessa in the 4th century; St. Ephrem's works note that the bones
of St. Thomas were venerated there in his time. The great
hymnodist alludes to the transferral of the bones in his Carmina
Nisibena (42:1.1-2.2, Kathleen McVey, Ephrem the Syrian, Paulist
Press, 1989, p. 25):
The evil one wails, "Where then
can I flee from the righteous?
I incited Death to kill the apostles
as if to escape from their scourges
by their death. More than ever now
I am scourged harshly. The apostle I killed in India
[has come] to Edessa before me. Here is he and also there.
I went there, there he is.
Here and there I found him, and I am gloomy.
Did that merchant carry the bones?
Or perhaps, indeed, they carried him!
His relics were moved from Edessa later and rediscovered in this
century at the Syriac Orthodox Church of Mosul by His Holiness Mor
Ignatius Zakka I while he was the Archbishop of Mosul.
There are a number of apocryphal writings under his name, most
notably the Acts of St. Thomas which is of Syriac origin. This
work dates back to the middle of the 3rd century. Translations in
Greek, and portions in Latin, Ethiopic and Armenian exist.
The Church commemorates the memory of St. Thomas on July 3rd. The
date marks the transfer of the remains of the Apostle to Edessa.
The Church in India also commemorates the Apostle on the New
Sunday after Easter, on December 18th when the Apostle is believed
to have been speared, and on December 21st when he attained
Patriarch H.H. Ignatius Zakka I in an encyclical dated October 20,
1987, added the name of "Apostle Thomas, the preacher of the Holy
Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in India" to the the fourth
diptych (Syr. tubden) in the Malankara Church.