31 - St Thomas Sunday, Apr 22, 2012

John 20:19-31

“How wonderful is the doubt of Thomas; it leads the hearts of believers to knowledge,” the Church sings on this Sunday after Pascha in honor of St Thomas. And in this morning’s Gospel, the risen Savior says to us as He says to St Thomas: “Blessed are those who believe without seeing.”

How does the doubt of Thomas lead to knowledge? Why are those who believe without seeing blessed?

We sang on Pascha: “This is the Day of Resurrection! Let us be illumined. For from death to life and from earth to heaven has Christ our God led us!”

The Day of Resurrection, first of Sabbaths, the chosen and holy Day, holy Day of holy days, Pascha is the Day on which the world was created “anwqen”; it was created anew, it was created from above, it was re-created from deep within – all of these are meanings of anwqen. Christ re-created the world from deep within the tomb, from deep within the soul and heart of man where we were dead in our sins and trespasses.

Christ Jesus who rose from the dead is the Word of God in whom all things were created in the beginning. Christ is not a man among many men, existing along with the rest of us from some common originating source. He is Himself the source in which all men and all things both visible and invisible originate. And, in the mystery of Pascha, this same Christ raises the world to life from out of death as He raised the world to life from out of nothing in the beginning. He raises earth to heaven so that in Him the world is established in a new creation wherein death is no more. Earth that had been torn from God and thrown into the darkness of death and corruption because of man’s disobedience is joined once more to heaven through the obedience of the New Eve and the New Adam. By His precious blood, the Holy Spirit washes the world clean. In Christ, the world is no longer infected with death and corruption. “Come ye and drink not from a barren stone, but a new vintage, a new wine from the fount of incorruption that springs forth from the tomb of Christ.” Drink not from the religious wisdom or philosophical vanity of the world but from the Holy Chalice of the Church. This is the fount of incorruption that springs forth from the tomb of Christ, for it offers to us the crucified and risen body of Christ and the New Creation that has been established in Christ.

I hope we begin to understand why the Church has insisted again and again down through the centuries that the Christian Faith is not a school of thought, not a “belief system,” not a religious variation of some “mono-myth.” The Christian Faith is this New Creation that was raised up in the resurrection of Christ on the Glorious Day of Pascha, born of the Holy Spirit “from above” who is in the world but not of the world! Therefore, the knowledge to which the doubt of Thomas leads is not the knowledge that comes from the wisdom of human reasoning. You cannot reason your way into knowledge of the risen Christ precisely because the risen Christ is in the world but He is not of the worldI How, then, does one come to “believe without seeing” the crucified and risen Lord Jesus?

The doubt of Thomas led him to the Upper Room with the disciples. The Upper Room is the mystery of the Church in her Eucharistic worship. This is clear from the fact that Jesus came, the doors being locked (“The doors! The doors! In Wisdom let us attend!), and stood “in their midst,” and He blessed them saying, “Peace be unto all!”

This is telling us that even today, here in the Divine Liturgy of Christ’s Holy Church, “Christ is in our midst!” He is not dead. He is risen as He said, and He is among us in the sacred setting of the Church’s divine, Eucharistic worship. But He is here in the mystery of His Holy Resurrection, which is not of this world. He cannot be seen by worldly eyes. He cannot be comprehended by the worldly mind. How, then, do we come to believe in Him?

Listen, and hear what the Church tells us on Pascha Night: “Let us purify our senses and we shall see Christ shining in the unapproachable light of His Resurrection.”

Through faith the eyes of our soul are made pure and illumined so that we can see God, But what is faith? Faith is not blindness. There is no such thing as a blind leap of faith in Christ’s Holy Church. Faith is knowledge born from action, the action of repentance in obedience to the commandments of Christ. In the confession of our sins, and in taking up our cross through the ascetic disciplines of the Church, we begin to die with Christ in the likeness of His death. Through prayer and fasting and service to others, we die to the world, to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, which are of the world that is passing away. As we die to the world in obedience to Christ, we are washed clean from the death and corruption that infect us, and the risen Christ comes to us in the Upper Room of our soul. We see Him in a way that is beyond seeing. In a way beyond hearing, we hear Him say, Peace to all. And, the joy and peace born in our souls from above are the witness to our hearts that we are beginning to pass from death to life in the New Creation of Christ’s Holy Resurrection.

This immediate apperception of Christ in His Holy Resurrection is the substance of faith. It is the knowledge of faith that is not of the world. It is from above. It is not blind assertion. It is a knowledge born from the soul’s immediate experience in the “Upper Room” of the heart, reflected like a mirror in the iconographic worship of the Church. It is attained not from seeing with the eyes – for even the Pharisees, the Scribes and Sadducees saw Christ with their eyes, but they did not see Him. It is attained through repentance, through confession of sins, through obedience to Christ, through dying in the likeness of Christ’s death to the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the pride of life that are of the world that is passing away, and living for the things of the Spirit which are eternal.

I think the doubt of St Thomas may be blessed precisely because it leads us away from the outer world that we see with our physical eyes and inward to the Upper Room of the Church’s Eucharistic worship. It teaches us to believe in Christ not from the outer world that we see with our eyes but from the faith of the Church that purifies our soul through repentance and confession of sins, and enlightens the eyes of our soul through obedience to Christ’s commandments that are a light on the earth – the light, specifically, that shines forth from the tomb of His Holy Resurrection. In the mystical knowledge born in our mind and heart from this faith of the Church, though we may not have seen Christ with our physical eyes as did St Thomas (and as have countless saints of the Church throughout the centuries), we say with no less love and joy: “My Lord and My God! Glory to Thee, O Christ, glory to Thee!”  Christ is risen!