ON THOMAS SUNDAY 2002
- ON THOMAS SUNDAY 2002
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The Sunday after Easter is called by Anglicans 'Low Sunday'. There is a certain truth in this
name, for no Sunday can be as high a day as Easter Sunday. On the other hand, for Orthodox
Christians, no Sunday can be called low, for every Sunday is a feast of the Resurrection. This
is why in Russian the word for Sunday means 'Resurrection'; and this is why in Church English
'Sunday' is called the Lord's Day, as in Greek.
In the Orthodox world, the Sunday after Easter is known as 'Antipascha', which means the
Sunday facing Easter, in other words similar to a mirror, this Sunday reflects the light of
Easter. This is the light that we felt on Easter Night and all of us who came to vespers every
day this last week have also seen and experienced that light, the light of Bright Week.
But this Sunday is also known as 'Thomas Sunday'. Today we have heard the Gospel of Thomas and
how he had to feel and see Christ's wounds and the nail marks in His body in order to believe.
In the middle of the church we can see the icon of this feast. It is a copy of a very ancient
icon. On it you can see Christ standing before the sealed doors of which we have read and
sung. He is surrounded by his disciples, not yet enlightened by the Holy Spirit of Pentecost.
And there to one side, we see the very young face of His disciple Thomas peering at Christ's
side. As a result of Thomas' doubt, the phrase 'doubting Thomas' long ago entered the English
language. His doubt of course is providential for us. Here we have proof of Christ's
Resurrection. One who disbelieved has come to belief. Thomas did not know how the Resurrection
was possible, and yet he saw and felt it with his own eyes and therefore believed it, for it
would have been perverse to disbelieve. How can anyone now still not believe in the
Resurrection of Christ after the testimony of Thomas?
The Resurrection is the core of our Orthodox Christian faith. It is why we are called Orthodox
Christians. No-one else in all history has risen from the dead, defeating death through death.
The Hindu gods failed, the gods of Greece and Rome failed, Buddha failed, Mohammed failed, the
Popes of Rome failed, Luther failed, atheists and humanists failed, even Moses and the whole
Old Testament failed. Christ alone did not fail. He rose from the dead, raising the righteous
with Himself. That is why we follow Him, calling ourselves Christians.
Today we may even go a stage further than Thomas and ask ourselves how it was that Christ in
His risen body passed through sealed doors? Clearly, He was not a ghost - Thomas saw His
wounds and the marks of the nails. Elsewhere in the Gospels, Christ eats. He had a real body
and yet He passed through sealed doors, just as He passed through the rock sealing the tomb.
It is clear that Christ's risen body, though matter, material, is made of a spiritual matter
or material, unlike His old body.
We cannot understand this, for fallen human knowledge or science cannot yet understand this.
Although science has learnt how to split the atom, it does not know how to put atoms back
together again. Worldly science is at heart destructive, whereas the science of the Gospel is
constructive, creative, resurrectional.
Thomas came to belief through this event of the Resurrection. He came to belief because he
touched God, because God touched him. What does that mean for us, to touch God and to be
touched by Him? To touch God and be touched by Him is to have some experience that takes us
beyond and outside ourselves, to something greater than our little selves, to God the Creator.
He is beyond our physical needs, our physical understanding, He alone can meet our spiritual
needs, vanquishing death.
There are many who touch God in some way, or rather are touched by God. For example, some,
especially mothers, are brought to touch God through the innocent smile and helplessness of a
new-born child. Others are touched by God through a sunrise over the sea, or a landscape, a
walk in the mountains, a piece of music, a church service, a prayer. Sometimes people are
touched by God inside a church building, at other times outside a church building. Whatever
the situation, they are touched by God, either by His presence in the world as Creator of all
things, or else through the presence in this world of His Body, the Body of Christ, the
Church, the very Body Who touched Thomas and Who was touched by Thomas.
It can then safely be asserted that if we seek God, then we touch Him and are touched by Him.
And in that way the dull, uncomprehending clay of our material being will be made into
spiritual matter and we too shall thus pass through the sealed doors of our fallen hearts and
minds and bodies towards the light of faith and understanding.
If, on the other hand, if we do not seek to touch and be touched by God, we shall continue to
be dull, uncomprehending, sealed lumps of clay.
May we all seek God and be touched by the light of the Resurrection of His Body, through the
prayers of the Holy Apostle Thomas.
Amen. Fr Andrew Phillips