Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Catholic Masterpieces XI: The Incredulity of Saint Thomas

[H]e saith to Thomas: Put in thy finger hither, and see my hands; and bring hither thy hand, and put it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing. Thomas answered, and said to him: My Lord, and my God. (John 20: 27-28)

Today is the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, also known as Didymus (Twin), according to the Catholic sanctoral calendar prior to Vatican II. On the later calendar, the memorial for St. Thomas is on 3 July, as a celebration of the transference of his body to Edessa in Mesopotamia .

I don't know of many depictions of this account from the Gospel where the doubting Apostle is literally obeying the command of his Master. One webpage comments, "[f]ew of his [Caravaggio's] paintings are physically so shocking - his Thomas pushes curiosity to its limits." Then again, why wouldn't he do such a thing?

On the other hand, it also appears that Jesus has taken Thomas' hand, and as a master sculptor would teach one of his students, has guided Thomas to come up close. In turn, St. Thomas places his finger in the pierced side of his Saviour. From this interpretation, an important conclusion can be reached - that it often takes an act of God in order to get many of us to believe in Him.

Dom Guéranger, the famous Benedictine abbot of Solemses, France, seems to recognize this point in his entry for this great feast. He writes, "O glorious apostle, Thomas! who didst lead to Christ so many unbelieving nations, hear now the prayers of the faithful, who beseech thee to lead them to that same Jesus.... [O]ur Saviour had compassion on thy weakness, and deigned to remove from thee the doubt of His having risen from the grave; pray to Him for us, that He will mercifully come to our assistance, and make Himself felt by our heart."

Sancte Thoma, ora pro nobis!


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