Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe (Jn 20:25). This was the final verse of the Gospel we heard read last Sunday in several languages at the Vespers of Agape. It was somewhat of a cliffhanger, leading us to the Gospel reading for this Sunday.
Today is the 2nd Sunday of Pascha, also known as St. Thomas Sunday, or Antipascha
. The name Antipascha
) does not mean “in opposition to Pascha” but rather “in place of Pascha” or “instead of Pascha.” Starting from Sunday of Thomas and onward, every Sunday is dedicated to the Resurrection of Christ and known as the Lord’s Day. However, every day from Easter Sunday until its Leave-taking (Απόδοσις του Πάσχα
) is Pascha. Saturday is the seventh day of the week and still the Sabbath, however, by the 2nd Century the 1st day of the week, Sunday, became known as the Lord’s Day. It was a day of rest from work and for worship, remembering the Resurrection. Saturday became a day reserved for the commemoration of the dead.
Although Sunday is the 1st day of the week, it is also known as the eighth day. As we heard in the Gospel reading this morning: And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” (Jn 20:26) Why the emphasis of the eighth day? In Judaism, feasts are celebrated for eight days, like Passover and Hanukkah. The early Church adopted the same tradition, since Christianity is not a new religion but rather the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets, thus the New Jerusalem.
The number eight has an eschatological dimension to it. It refers to the age to come in the Kingdom of Heaven. The first week of Pascha is known as Renewal Week or Bright Week (Διακαινήσιμος Εβδομάδα). The Resurrection is celebrated unceasingly day and night during this week. In accordance to the 66th Canon of the Council in Trullo, each day is designated to one of the eight tones from the Anastasimatarion (Αναστασιματάριον) for both vespers and matins. The only tone that is not sung is Grave Tone (Ηχος Βαρύς). Although Sunday of Thomas is the 2nd Sunday of Pascha, a Resurrection tone from the Anastasimatarion is not sung on that day. This is another reason for the term Antipascha.
There is emphasis that the doors were shut. It parallels the Tomb being sealed by a stone. This signifies that the Risen Christ is indeed Light of Light, True God of True God. The same way He did not need the stone to be rolled away to rise from the dead, He did not need the doors to be opened for Him to appear to Thomas and the rest of the Disciples. Christ appeared to His Disciples after His Resurrection; He did not live among them as He did prior to His Passion. He told Mary Magdalene: do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father (ibid 20:17). Obviously, this was not because the resurrected Flesh could not be touched bur rather that things now are different. His life is not merely continuing in the same state as before.
On Sunday of Thomas we remember the Touching of Thomas which is the Greek tradition. In Slavonic practice it is known as the Belief of Thomas (η Ψηλάφηση του Θωμά). Some icons have the inscription: Doubting Thomas but that is not correct. Although the Apostle Thomas was doubtful at first, we celebrate his belief once the Risen Christ showed His side and His hands to him.
As we heard in vespers last evening: Thomas, called the Twin, was not with them when You, O Christ, came and the doors were shut. Therefore, he did not believe what he was told. But to confirm him in belief from disbelief, You, O Good One, did not refuse to show him Your immaculate side, and the wounds on Your hands and Your feet. When he saw You and touched You, he confessed that You are not simply God and not merely man, and he cried, "My Lord and my God, glory to You!” (Festal Sticheron)
Christ encouraged Thomas to put his hand in His side and his fingers into the holes of His hands, however, Thomas did not need to in order to believe. He immediately confessed: My Lord and my God! (ibid, 28) Christ told him: Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (ibid, 29) This is a message to all of us. We have not seen Jesus in the flesh, yet we believe what has been proclaimed to us in the Scriptures. To have true faith is to believe in something that is not visual or tangible.
This particular day is not the Feast Day of the Apostle Thomas, that is October 6th. Rather, today we celebrate the historic event involving Thomas, the Belief of Thomas. It is also an opportunity for us to reflect on our own faith. Do we truly believe Christ is Risen? Perhaps at times we are like Thomas prior to Christ appearing to him. The goal is transition or rather transformation from unbelieving to believing. From saying I will not believe unless...
to saying: My Lord and my God, glory to You!
Our faith needs to be reinforced with prayer, both personal and corporate. We can identify with Thomas because there are times in our life that we have disbelief. Yet, through prayer and fasting our disbelief fades away and our faith grows stronger and stronger.
During this blessed and joyous time, let each of us cherish every day of Pascha. As we heard in the sticheron from the vespers, in order to confirm Thomas in belief from disbelief, Christ offered His side and His hands. Christ wanted Thomas to be believing, He did not want to chastise Him for his disbelief. Likewise, Christ wants us to believe. He reveals Himself to us through His energies. In this holy and joyous season of Pascha, let us rejoice and behold the Resurrection of Christ. The Risen Christ has revealed Himself to us. May it be a time of triumph, over sin and death.
O Life, You rose from the sepulcher, even though the tomb was secured with a seal, O Christ God. Then, although the doors were shut, You came to Your Disciples, O Resurrection of all. Through them You renew a right spirit in us, according to Your great mercy (Festal Apolytikion).
Christ is Risen!
Glory to His Three-Day Resurrection
A graduate of Long Island University, College of Pharmacy, and Saint Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, John works to share the richness and beauty of the Orthodox Faith with the wider community.
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BONUS: Y2AM has released a brand new ministry training course. And check out our "Live the Word" episode for Thomas Sunday: