The Liturgical Year: Saint Thomas, Apostle

Saint Thomas the ApostleThis 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 Saint Thomas. It was Saint Thomas whom we needed; Saint 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. Saint Thomas was once guilty of doubting, when he ought to have believed; and only learned 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.

The Great Antiphon of Saint Thomas

O Thomas! Didymus! who did merit to see Christ; we beseech you, by most earnest supplication, help us miserable sinners, lest we be condemned with the ungodly, at the Coming of the Judge.

Let Us Pray

Grant, O Lord, we beseech you, that we may rejoice on the solemnity of your blessed Apostle, Thomas; to the end that we may always have the assistance of his prayers, and zealously profess the faith he taught. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer from the Mozarabic Breviary

O Lord Jesus Christ, who have placed on the head of your Martyr, Thomas the Apostle, a crown made of that precious stone, that is founded in the foundation; that so he might not be confounded, because he believed in you; nor be uncrowned, because he laid down his life for you; may there be, by his intercession, in us your servants, that true Faith, whereby we may confess you with most ready hearts before persecutors: that thus, by the same great Martyr’s intercession, we may not be confounded before you and your Angels. Amen.

The Greek Church celebrates, with her usual solemnity, the Feast of Saint Thomas; but she keeps it on the sixth of October. We extract the following stanzas from her Hymns.

Hymn of Saint Thomas

When your hand touched Jesus’ Side, you did find the perfection of good things; for, as a mystic sponge, you did thence imbibe the water of life, the fount of all that is good, and did drink in everlasting life; whereby you did cleanse men’s minds from ignorance, giving them to drink of the divine dogmas of the knowledge of God.

You did, by your own incredulity and your after-faith, confirm such as were tempted; for you did proclaim to all men, how He, that is your Lord and your God, became incarnate on this earth for us, was nailed to the Cross and suffered death, and had his Side opened with a spear, whence we draw life.

You did make all the Indies shine with much light, O most holy Apostle, you contemplator of the Divinity! For after you had enlightened these people, and made them to be children of the light and day, you, by the Spirit of God, did wisely overthrow the temples of their idols, and did elevate the people to the love of God, making them an honour and a glory to the Church, O you that help us by your intercession!

By the vision you had of divine things, you became, O Apostle Thomas, the mystic cup of the Wisdom of Christ, which gives joy to the souls of the faithful. You were the spiritual net, drawing men from the sea of ignorance. Hence is it that you earnest from Sion as a stream of charity, watering the world with the divine dogmas. You did imitate the passion of Jesus, you were pierced in your side, you have put on immortality. Pray to God, that he have mercy on our souls.

– from the Menoea of the Greeks

O glorious Apostle Thomas, who did lead to Christ so many unbelieving nations, hear now the prayers of the faithful, who beseech you to lead them to that same Jesus, who, in five days, will have shown himself to his Church. That we may merit to appear in his divine presence, we need, before all other graces, the light which leads to him. That light is Faith; then, pray that we may have Faith. Heretofore, our Saviour had compassion on your weakness, and deigned to remove from you 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. We ask not, O holy Apostle, to see him with the eyes of our body, but with those of our faith, for he said to you, when he showed himself to you: Blessed are they who have not seen, and have believed! Of this happy number, we desire to be. We beseech you, therefore, pray that we may obtain the Faith of the heart and will, that so, when we behold the divine Infant wrapped in swaddling-clothes and laid in a manger, we may cry out: My Lord! and my God! Pray, holy Apostle, for the nations you did evangelise, but which have fallen back again into the shades of death. May the day soon come, when the Sun of Justice will once more shine upon them. Bless the efforts of those apostolic men, who have devoted their labours and their very lives to the work of the Missions; pray that the days of darkness may be shortened, and that the countries, which were watered by your blood, may at length see that kingdom of God established among them, which you did preach to them, and for which we also are in waiting.

– from the book The Liturgical Year: Advent, by the Very Reverend Dom Prosper Gueranger, Abbot of Solesmes, translated from the French by the Revered Dom Laurence Shepherd, Monk of the English-Benedictine Congregation, 2nd edition; published in Dublin Ireland by James Duffy, 15 Wellington-Quay, 1870