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)
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
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
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.