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Thomas

Thomas

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 — Week of 4 Advent , Year Two

Saint Thomas the Apostle

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer)

EITHER

the readings for St. Thomas (p. 996)

Morning Prayer: Psalms 23, 121; Job 42:1-6; 1 Peter 1:3-9

Evening Prayer: Psalms 27; Isaiah 43 8-13; John 14:1-7

OR

the readings for Wednesday, of 4 Advent (p. 939)

Psalms 72 (morning) 111,113 (evening)

2 Samuel 7:1-17

Titus 2:11 – 3:8a

Luke 1:39-48a(48b-56)

I chose the readings for St. Thomas

There is something satisfying about the fact that the Church’s feast of St. Thomas happens on or near the winter solstice for us in the northern hemisphere. At the end of the longest night, there is a turning point. The darkness will go no further. Light, warmth and new life renew their promise. It is still dark, but the progression has changed. Hope arises. We will continue to live and grow.

It is a holy moment. Wikipedia lists 39 various winter celebrations that have some connection with the new light, new life, or some form of reversal. The Newgrange prehistoric monument in Ireland was built around 3200 BCE oriented toward the rising sun on the winter solstice, and Stonehenge was begun not too many years afterward.

The story of Thomas is a story of darkness turning to light. Thomas did not participate in the Easter visions of his friends. While the other disciples rejoiced because they had experienced something that convinced them of Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas remained traumatized by grief. His consciousness was haunted by the very real memory of the wounds of nail and spear. He could not be soothed from the stories of others. In order to be healed, he needed something as real as the tragedy he had experienced.

Jesus honored Thomas’ grief and his authenticity. Jesus gave to Thomas a special visitation, offering to Thomas just the kind of experience that he needed so the meaning of those traumatic wounds would no longer be painful, but inspiring of worship.

The reading from 1 Peter assigned for Morning Prayer on Thomas’ day is a glorious exultation of the hope of promise Christ gives us through resurrection. “By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials.” (3b-6)

We also read Job’s response to his encounter with God in the whirlwind. “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” (42:5)

In the darkness of grief and trauma, when nights are longest and life is cold, we ask of God some hope that is as real as our pain and loss. We wait — like Thomas; like the cold, dark earth — for the sign of hope. Thomas is our patron when we are in that lonesome place.

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Lowell Grisham

Thanks for the thought, E.H. I haven't made that connection before.

It is compelling to think that Thomas might carry some guilt for the way things turned out. "I knew it; I told him it would turn out bad."

Yet we sense that Jesus had "set his face" and would not be deterred.

I occasionally visit with someone who carries inappropriate guilt or responsibility for a tragedy that someone else precipitated. It is so easy for us to think that we have more power than we do, and such thinking can lead to depression and exaggerated grief beyond the simple loss.

In every suicide, friends ask themselves, "Could I have stopped it?" Almost always, the answer is "No." We need the divine visitation that frees us from our overweening guilt.

Thanks for the comment.

Lowell Grisham

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EH Culver

From John's Gospel, it seems to me that Thomas was overwhelmed by guilt, having been the one to say, "Let us go also, that we may die with him" (John 11:16b). Did he blame himself for not talking Jesus out of going back to Judea and putting himself in danger? Possibly, although it appears from the text that Jesus had his mind made up.

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