Sunday, December 21, 2008

St. Thomas

ST. THOMAS

Feast: July 3 & December 21.

St. Thomas (Mor Toma in Syriac) was a Jew, called to be one of the twelve Apostles. He was a dedicated but impetuous follower of Christ. When Jesus said that He was returning to Judea to visit His sick friend Lazarus, Thomas immediately exhorted the other Apostles to accompany Him on the trip which involved certain danger and possible death because of the mounting hostility of the authorities. At the Last Supper, when Christ told His Apostles that He was going to prepare a place for them to which they also might come because they knew both the place and the way, Thomas pleaded that they did not understand and received the beautiful assurance that Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

But St. Thomas is best known for his role in verifying the Resurrection of His Master. Thomas’ unwillingness to believe that the other Apostles had seen their Risen Lord on the first Easter Sunday merited for him the title of “doubting Thomas.” Eight days later, on Christ’s second apparition, Thomas was gently rebuked for his skepticism and furnished with the evidence he had demanded-seeing in Christ’s hands the point of the nails and putting his fingers in the place of the nails and his hand into His side. At this, St. Thomas became convinced of the truth of the Resurrection and exclaimed: “My Lord and my God,” thus making a public Profession of Faith in the Divinity of Jesus.

St. Thomas is also mentioned as being present at another Resurrection appearance of Jesus-at Lake Tiberias when a miraculous catch of fish occurred. This is all that we know about St. Thomas from the New Testament.

Tradition says that at the dispersal of the Apostles after Pentecost this saint was sent to evangelize the Parthians, Medes and Persians; he ultimately reached India, carrying the Faith to the Malabar Coast, which still boasts a large native population calling themselves “Christians of St. Thomas.” He capped his life by shedding his blood for His Master, speared to death at a place called Calamine and buried at Mylapore, near Chennai (Madras). This is mentioned in the Gnostic Acts of Thomas in Syriac, where he is called Judas Thomas. 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 'St. Thomas Christians'. 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).

His relics were moved from Edessa later and rediscovered in 1964 at the Syriac Orthodox Church of Mosul by His Holiness Mor Ignatius Zakka I, the Patriarch of Antioch 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 martyrdom.

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.

source: http://www.syrianchurch.org/doc/Apostles.htm#ST.%20THOMAS,%20Apostle


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