Some icons depicting this event are inscribed “The Doubting Thomas.” This is incorrect. In Greek, the inscription reads, “The Touching of Thomas.” The Slavonic inscription is, “The Belief of Thomas.” When St Thomas touched the Life-giving side of the Lord, he no longer had any doubts.
This day is also known as “Antepascha.” This does not mean “opposed to Pascha,” but “in place of Pascha.” Beginning with this first Sunday after Pascha, the Church dedicates every Sunday of the year to the Lord’s Resurrection. Sunday is called “Resurrection” in Russian, and “the Lord’s Day” in Greek.
A homily by the Rev. Fr. George Dimopoulos
We call today the Sunday of Antepascha, dear brethren, because it is today that the feast of Easter draws to a close, although we continue to sing joyous paschal music until the feast of our Lord’s Ascension. We call the week following Easter “Bright Week,”… for in ancient years the newly baptized wore white robes from the day of their baptism, Great and Holy Saturday, until the Sunday of Antepascha.
This day is also known to us as St. Thomas Sunday, because eight days after Christ’s first appearance to His disciples, at which time Thomas was not present and refused to believe, Christ appeared to all of the disciples, and bade Thomas “reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27).
Christ had nothing to fear from scientific research then, and He has nothing to fear today. Rather, He helps all those who with good intentions and feelings seek to know and learn about Him, and to meet Him. Christ does not attempt to force us to believe in Him. He forces no one, but invites all to follow Him, and as many as follow Him freely, He freely accepts. Jesus respects the freedom of will with which man was created. Many will reject Him, initiating horrible persecutions of all who unconditionally accept Him. Atheists and unbelievers will continue to plan lessons and special courses to contradict His teachings. Scientists will run the words of Jesus through their man-made computers in vain attempts to prove that those words are not authentic. Meetings and conventions will continue to be organized to oppose Christ. The very passions of sinful men will oppose Him. Yet, over and above the voices of the persecutors, the atheists, and the unbelievers, we can still hear the voice of Thomas crying, “My Lord and my God.”
Thomas’ first attitude of “unless I see I will not believe” is illogical. We don’t apply it to everything else; why apply it to religion? How could schools function on this attitude? How could teachers prove to students that Socrates, Plato, Napoleon, Lincoln and even Eisenhower actually lived? How could teachers prove that the conquests of Alexander the Great and the battle of Waterloo took place? And how could a court convict a single criminal, if the entire jury had to see the crime take place in order to give a verdict of “guilty”? How illogical is all this!
We live and are moved by the confidence that others have in us, and that we have in them. Ten of the best friends of Thomas, whom he had known for at least three years, assured him that they had seen the Lord. Their stories all agreed. They were sane men. Yet Thomas refused to believe without seeing. Many people today repeat the words of Thomas, especially those who would destroy the major doctrines of the Christian faith.
If people are going to take this attitude of “I won’t believe it unless I see it,” one would think that they would at least bother to investigate carefully. Some time back a young man said to me with great arrogance, “Father, I believe that Socrates was greater than Christ.” I told him, “If you can back up what you say by concrete proof, I’ll believe that too.” He began to comment upon the “writings” of Socrates, noting that Christ wrote nothing. How confused he was when I explained to him that Socrates himself wrote nothing, and that all we know of him is what we can glean from the writings of such men as Plato, Xenophon and Plutarch. He refused to believe me until I showed it to him in black and white in an encyclopedia. If careful research and preparation have no part in your studies, you will become like an empty barrel, having no content except for inarticulate sounds.
At a hotel in New York City a person was complaining about business. Someone said, “Don’t worry; the rich will die just as we will, and their wealth won’t do them any good in the future life.” The first man replied, “Do you really believe in such mythical nonsense? Who ever returned from the dead? I believe heaven and hell are right here on this earth.” At this point I felt I had to enter the conversation. “Why don’t you investigate, and see whether anyone ever returned from the realm of the dead,” I suggested. “Do you know what the Bible teaches about heaven and hell, and about One who returned from the dead? Have you ever seriously investigated the Christian religion?” The answer, of course, was no. He knew nothing whatever about religion, yet still expressed his opinion that heaven and hell do not exist as distinct places. How can a person possibly claim the right to an opinion about a subject concerning which he admittedly knows nothing?
Yet such is the concern of Christ for one soul, beloved, that He condescends to the doubting Thomas, permitting him to see and touch Him, thus verifying the truth of the resurrection. “Be not faithless,” He says, “but believing.”
St. Chrysostom writes, “In beholding the infidelity of the disciples, we see and understand the great love of our Lord, who lowered Himself to the test of a faithless disciple.” When Thomas saw the Lord, he instantly believed, crying out, “My Lord and my God!” The reply of Jesus is intended for each of us: “Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).