Monday, July 03, 2006

Feast of St. Thomas - Apostle to India

St. Thomas the Apostle

Feast Day: July 3

Both the patrons of our country St. Thomas the Apostle and St. Francis Xavier, though separated by 15 centuries, have their feast day on the third of the month - St. Francis in December and St. Thomas in July. But what really joins them together is their love for Christ and their zeal for souls.

Today July 3rd, on his feast day we look at Thomas surnamed 'Didymus' (the twin), an unlearned simple fisherman in Galilee called by Jesus to become one of his twelve Apostles.

'The Teaching of the Apostles', an ancient undated Syriac work mentions that, "India, and all the countries belonging to it and round about it, even to the farthest sea, received the apostles' ordination to the priesthood from Judas Thomas, who was guide and ruler in the church which he had built there, in which he also ministered there."

One of the Fathers of the Church, St. Hippolytus, in his discourse on the end of the world mentions that "Thomas preached to the Parthians, Medes, Persians, Hyrcanians, Bactrians, and Margians, and was thrust through in the four members of his body with a pine spears at Calamene, the city of India, and was buried there."

In Madras, at Mylapore, (now San Thome) St. Thomas is believed to have met his death by the spear, and there the miraculous cross of St. Thomas is venerated. In the days of St. John Chrysostom his tomb was at Edessa in Syria and in later years his relics were transferred to Italy and Portugal.

The Church Father and Doctor, St. Ephraim the Syrian wrote a hymn blessing the "might that dwells in the hallowed bones" of St. Thomas. In the hymn the Evil One wails:
"Where now, is there a place for me to flee to from the righteous?
I stirred up Death to slay the Apostles,
that I might be safe from their blows.
By their deaths now more exceedingly am I cruelly beaten.
The Apostle whom I slew in India is before me in Edessa:
he is here wholly and also there.
I went there, there was he:
here and there I have found him and been grieved."
In the Apocryphal work, 'Assumption of Mary' (c.400) is found an account which tells how Thomas, who was in India, miraculously found himself along with the other Apostles beside the Virgin Mary at her bodily assumption.
"And Thomas also answered and said: And I, traversing the country of the Indians, when the preaching was prevailing by the grace of Christ, and the king's sister's son Labdanus by name, was about to be sealed by me in the palace, on a sudden the Holy Spirit says to me, Do thou also, Thomas, go to Bethlehem to salute the mother of thy Lord, because she is taking her departure to the heavens. And a cloud of light having snatched me up, set me down beside you." (From the Greek)
The lengthier account from the Latin form of the same writing relates the favour the Apostle found with the Holy Mother and how the Apostle in his humility, undid as it were, through Mary, his obduracy and unbelief in Christ's resurrection.

"Then the most blessed Thomas was suddenly brought to the Mount of Olivet, and saw the most blessed body going up to heaven, and began to cry out and say: O holy mother, blessed mother, spotless mother, if I have now found grace because I see thee, make thy servant joyful through thy compassion, because thou art going to heaven. Then the girdle with which the apostles had encircled the most holy body was thrown down from heaven to the blessed Thomas. And taking it, and kissing it, and giving thanks to God, he came again into the Valley of Jehoshaphat. He found all the apostles and another great crowd there beating their breasts on account of the brightness which they had seen. And seeing and kissing each other, the blessed Peter said to him: Truly thou hast always been obdurate and unbelieving, because for thine unbelief it was not pleasing to God that thou shouldst be along with us at the burial of the mother of the Saviour. And he, beating his breast, said: I know and firmly believe that I have always been a bad and an unbelieving man; therefore I ask pardon of all of you for my obduracy and unbelief. And they all prayed for him. Then the blessed Thomas said: Where have you laid her body? And they pointed out the sepulchre with their finger. And he said: The body which is called most holy is not there. Then the blessed Peter said to him: Already on another occasion thou wouldst not believe the resurrection of our Master and Lord at our word, unless thou went to touch Him with thy fingers, and see Him; how wilt thou believe us that the holy body is here? Still he persists saying: It is not here. Then, as it were in a rage, they went to the sepulchre, which was a new one hollowed out in the rock, and took up the stone; but they did not find the body, not knowing what to say, because they had been convicted by the words of Thomas. Then the blessed Thomas told them how he was singing mass in India--he still had on his sacerdotal robes. He, not knowing the word of God, had been brought to the Mount of Olivet, and saw the most holy body of the blessed Mary going up into heaven, and prayed her to give him a blessing. She heard his prayer, and threw him her girdle which she had about her. And the apostles seeing the belt which they had put about her, glorifying God, all asked pardon of the blessed Thomas, on account of the benediction which the blessed Mary had given him, and because he had seen the most holy body going up into heaven. And the blessed Thomas gave them his benediction, and said: Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!"
May the blessing and intercession of the Holy Apostle Thomas accompany our labour for souls.

Posted by Jesuvera
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