December 21, 2019: ST. THOMAS, APOSTLE
December 21, 2019: ST. THOMAS, APOSTLE
Rank: Double of the II Class.
O Thoma! Didyme! qui Christum meruisti cernere; te precibus rogamus altisonis, succurre nobis miseris; ne damnemur cum impiis, in Adventu Judicis.
O Thomas! Didymus! Who didst merit to see Christ; we beseech thee, by most earnest supplication, help us miserable sinners, lest we be condemned with the ungodly, at the Coming of the Judge.
Grant, O Lord, we beseech thee, that we may rejoice on the solemnity of thy blessed Apostle, Thomas; to the end that we may always have the assistance of his prayers, and zealously profess the faith he taught. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, thy Son, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end. Amen.
This is the last Feast the Church keeps before the great one of the Nativity of her Lord and Spouse. She interrupts the Greater Ferias in order to pay her tribute of honour to Thomas, the Apostle of Christ, whose glorious martyrdom has consecrated this twenty-first day of December, and has procured for the Christian people a powerful patron, that will introduce them to the divine Babe of Bethlehem. To none of the Apostles could this day have been so fittingly assigned as to St. Thomas. It was St. Thomas whom we needed; St. Thomas, whose festal patronage would aid us to believe and hope in that God whom we see not, and who comes to us in silence and humility in order to try our Faith. St. Thomas was once guilty of doubting, when he ought to have believed; and only learnt the necessity of Faith by the sad experience of incredulity: he comes then most appropriately to defend us, by the power of his example and prayers, against the temptations which proud human reason might excite within us. Let us pray to him with confidence. In that heaven of Light and Vision, where his repentance and love have placed him, he will intercede for us, and gain for us that docility of mind and heart, which will enable us to see and recognise Him, who is the Expected of Nations, and who, though the King of the world, will give no other signs of his majesty, than the swaddling-clothes and tears of a Babe.
But let us first read the Acts of our holy Apostle. The Church has deemed it prudent to give us them in an exceedingly abridged form, which contains only the most reliable facts, gathered from authentic sources; and thus, she excludes all those details, which have no historic authority.
Thomas the Apostle, who was also named Didymus, was a Galilean. After he had received the Holy Ghost, he travelled through many provinces, preaching the Gospel of Christ. He taught the principles of Christian faith and practice to the Parthians, Medes, Persians, Hircanians, and Bactrians. He finally went to the Indies, and instructed the inhabitants of those countries in the Christian religion. Up to the last, he gained for himself the esteem of all men by the holiness of his life and teaching, and by the wonderful miracles he wrought. He stirred up, also, in their hearts, the love of Jesus Christ. The King of those parts, a worshipper of idols, was, on the contrary, only the more irritated by all these things. He condemned the Saint to be pierced to death by javelins: which punishment was inflicted at Calamina, and gave Thomas the highest honour of his Apostolate, the crown of martyrdom.
Another account of St. Thomas.
St. Thomas was a Jew, and probably a Galilӕan of low condition, according to Metaphrastes, a fisherman. He had the happiness to follow Christ, and was made by him an apostle in the year 31 (St. Matth, x. 3). If he appears to have been slow in understanding, and unacquainted with secular learning, he made up for this by the candour and simplicity of his heart, and the ardour of his piety and desires. Of this he gave a proof when Jesus was going up to the neighbourhood of Jerusalem in order to raise Lazarus to life, where the priests and Pharisees were contriving his death. The rest of the disciples endeavoured to dissuade him from that journey, saying, “Rabbi, the Jews but now sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?” But St. Thomas said to his fellow-disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (St. John, xi. 16) So ardent was his love of his divine Master, even before the descent of the Holy Ghost. When our Lord at his last supper acquainted his disciples that he was about to leave them; but told them for their comfort that he was going to prepare a place for them in his Father's house, our apostle, who vehemently desired to follow him, said, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest, and how can we know the way?” (St. John, xiv. 5, 6) Christ presently rectified his misapprehension by returning this short but satisfactory answer, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh to the Father but by me.” By which he gave to understand, that by his doctrine and example he had taught men the path of salvation, and that he is the author of the Way that leadeth to life, which he hath both opened and discovered to us; that he is the teacher of that Truth which directs to it; and the giver of that Life of grace here, and of a glorious eternity which is to be obtained by walking in this way, and according to this truth.
After our Lord had suffered, was risen from the dead, and on the same day had appeared to his disciples, to convince them of the truth of his resurrection, Thomas not being with them on that occasion, refused to believe upon their report that he was truly risen, presuming that it was only a phantom, or mere apparition, unless he might see the very prints of the nails, and feel the wounds in his hands and side. On that day sevennight our merciful Lord, with infinite condescension to this apostle's weakness, presented himself again, when he and his colleagues were assembled together, probably at their devotions; and after the usual salutation of “Peace be unto you,” he turned to Thomas, and bid him look upon his hands, and put his finger into the hole of his side, and into the prints of the nails. St. Austin and many others doubt not but this apostle did so; though this be not mentioned by the evangelist, and some think, that being convinced, he refrained out of modesty and respect. It is observed by St. Austin and others, that he sinned by obstinacy, presumption, and incredulity; for the resurrection of Christ was no more than Moses and the prophets had long before foretold. Nor was it reasonable in him to reject the testimony of such eye-witnesses; and this stubbornness might have betrayed him into infidelity. However, his refractoriness was not a sin of malice, and the mercy of our Redeemer not only brought him to saving repentance, but raised him to the summit of holy charity and perfect virtue. St. Thomas was no sooner convinced of the reality of the mystery, but, penetrated with compunction, awe, and tender love, he cried out, “My Lord and my God.” (St. John, xx. 28) Prostrating to him all the powers of his soul, he acknowledged him the only and sovereign Lord of his heart, and the sole object of all his affections. These words St. Thomas spoke with an entire faith, believing him truly God, whoso humanity only he saw, confessing him omnipotent, in overcoming death and hell, and acknowledging his omniscience, who knew the doubts and scruples of his heart. The apostle also expressed by them the ardour of his love, which the particle “my God” clearly indicates. If we love our God and Redeemer, can we cease sweetly, but with awe and trembling, to call him our Lord and our God, and to beg with torrents of tears that he become more and more perfectly the God and King of our hearts? From this apostle's incredulity Christ mercifully drew the strongest evidence of his resurrection for the confirmation of our faith beyond all cavil or contradiction. Whence St. Gregory the Great says, “By this doubting of Thomas we are more confirmed in our belief, than by the faith of the other apostles.” Some other fathers take notice, that our apostle, by this confession, shows himself a perfect theologian, instructed in the very school of truth, declaring in Christ two distinct natures in one and the same person, his humanity by the word “Lord,” and his divinity by the word “God.” Faith in the beginning stood in need of miracles, by which God impressed the stamp of his authority upon his holy revelation. But such are the marks and characteristics of his truth herein, that those who can still stand out against all the light and evidence of the Christian revelation, would bar their heart against all conviction from miracles. There were infidels amidst the dispensation of the most evident miracles as well as now. So true it is, that he who believeth not Moses and the prophets, would not believe the greatest of all miracles, one risen from the dead…
The apostles were mean and contemptible in the eyes of the world, neither recommended by birth, riches, friends, learning, nor abilities. Yet, totally destitute as they were of all those advantages on which men here set so high a price, they were chosen by Christ, made his friends, replenished with his graces and holy charity, and exalted to the dignity of spiritual princes of his kingdom, and judges of the world. Blind and foolish are all men who over rate and eagerly pursue the goods of this life; or who so enjoy them as to suffer their hearts to be wedded to them. “Worldly pleasures, riches, or honours, if they become the object of our affections, are, as it were, fetters which fasten us to the earth, and clog our souls; and it is so hard to enjoy them with perfect indifference, to consider them barely as a dangerous stewardship, and to employ them only for the advancement of virtue in ourselves and others, that many saints thought it safer utterly to renounce them, and others rejoiced to see themselves removed from what it is difficult to possess and not be entangled by. Are not the maxims of the gospel, and the example of Christ, our king and leader, and of all his saints, sufficient to inspire those who enjoy the advantages of this world with a saving fear, and to make them study the various obligations of their stewardship, and by watchfulness, voluntary humiliations, mortification, compunction, assiduous prayer, and conversing on heavenly things by holy meditation or reading, to stand infinitely upon their guard, lest the love of the world, or the infection of its pride, vanity, or pleasures seize their hearts. Faith must be extremely weak and unactive in us, if we look upon the things of this world in any other light than that in which the gospel places them; if we regard any other goods as truly valuable but those of divine grace and charity, or if we set not ourselves with our whole strength to pursue them by the road of humility, patience, meekness, and piety, in imitation of the saints. The apostles are herein the objects of our veneration, and our guides and models. We honour them as the doctors of the law of Christ; after Him the foundation-stones of his church; the twelve gates, and the twelve precious stones of the heavenly Jerusalem; and as the leaders and princes of the saints. They also challenge our gratitude, inasmuch as it is by their ardent charity for our souls, and by their labours and sufferings, that we enjoy the happiness of holy faith, and are ourselves Christians: through them we have received the gospel.
Taken from: The Liturgical Year - Advent, Edition 1870;
The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. II; and
The Divine Office for the use of the Laity, Volume I, 1806.
St. Thomas, pray for us.