Today the church remembers a saint who you know quite well: Saint Thomas, Apostle and Patron Saint of Those Who Ask Questions.
No doubt most everyone remembers Saint Thomas for his, well, supposed doubting of the resurrection as reported in Saint John’s account of the story, but that’s an accident of historical memory more than a reality. Saint Thomas didn’t doubt so much as he asked questions and sought verification.
And more people of faith should ask more questions, IMHO.
His name means “Twin,” and there is a tradition where Thomas is the twin of Jesus (or at least his doppelganger), but that’s largely conjecture. What is more probable is that Thomas, with his inquiry and deep searching for truth in the Gospel of John, is meant to be the reader’s twin in the story.
Or, in other words, you (and I) are the twin of Thomas, seeking to touch the Divine wounds, wondering if it could all be true, honestly desiring to say, “My Lord and God” with conviction and love because our eyes have seen it in real life.
Lore has it that Thomas took to being a missionary in India, planting the Martoma church tradition there that lives in a robust witness of the faith. There is a 3rd Century piece of literature, the Acts of Thomas that says he lived as an apostle carpenter in India, performing miracles, healing the sick, and was eventually martyred near madras. Within the pages of that interesting work is a beautiful Syriac poem, the Hymn of the Soul, a much pondered allegory of humanity’s search for beauty and meaning.
Fitting for a work dedicated to this saint, no?
While most modern scholars think that Saint Thomas probably was a missionary somewhere between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf, never actually reaching India, the presence of the Martoma church and tradition give testimony to his legend and impact all the same, and it is the case that when European missionaries arrived in India in the 16th Century they found a robust Christian faith and practice thousands of years old.
Saint Thomas is a reminder for me, and should be for the whole church, that asking questions and continually chasing deeper and truer truth has been part of the faith from the beginning.
Let those with ears to hear, hear.
-historical bits gleaned from Pfatteicher’s New Book of Festivals & Commemorations
-icon written by Byzantine icon writer “Krillyboy”