Our personal Pascha.

Homily 593 – 2nd Pascha (Thomas) Sunday
Holy Transfiguration, Ames, Iowa
May 12, 2024
Epistle:  (14) – Acts 5:12-20
Gospel:  (65) – John 20:19-31

Christ is risen!

Today we remember the experience of St. Thomas, maybe more popularly known in the west at least as “Doubting Thomas.”  Now before we dig into this, one of the things about the Eastern Church’s memory of Thomas is that he wasn’t described as doubting.

The icon in the Greek has the title of “The Touching of Thomas” and in the Slavic world the title of the icon is “The Faith of Thomas” or “The Belief of Thomas.”  Regardless of what we call it, the idea that somehow Thomas doubted remains with us.

Let’s ask a question at this point.  Who did Thomas doubt?  It may seem like a silly question at first, but I think most of us assume that Thomas doubted the resurrection.  But let’s look at the scene.

First, who is around when Thomas is there?  The remaining Apostles, all except Judas.  So, we have 10 men, who have reportedly seen the Risen Christ, and one who was missing.  In the beautiful kontakia of St. Romanos on this event, he puts it like this:

“I (meaning Jesus) slept for a short time in a tomb and after three days came back to life.

For you and those like you I lay in a grave,

And you, instead of thanksgiving, have brought me unbelief.

For I heard what you said to your brothers.”

At this, Thomas trembled and cried out,

“Do not blame me, Savior, for you I always believe.

Peter and the rest I have difficulty in believing,

For I know that they lied to you

And, in the hour of evils, they were afraid to say to you

            ‘You are our Lord and our God.’”

Thomas’s doubt wasn’t about Christ, but about the others.  All of them had promised to remain at Christ’s side, ready to fight and die with Christ, led by St. Peter.  And none of them did so.  St. John was the closest, having actually stayed at the crucifixion with the women, but even he didn’t hang around to bury Christ.

Thomas had a very good basis to doubt what the Apostles were telling him.  Would you believe the ones that abandoned Christ?

What Thomas does is act on our behalf, as well as his own, to confirm the absolute reality of the Resurrection of our Lord.  This feast is also called “antipascha” – not because it is opposite, but rather it is another Pascha.

Thomas has a personal Pascha.  A personal experience of the Resurrection.  The same Pascha that Christ promises to us – He says, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and have believed.”

That is our Pascha.

The significance of that is something that we spend the rest of our lives trying to wrap our heads around.  Why would God save us?  Why does God love us?  I suspect that we are the result of the very natural, very real existence of God Himself.

I suspect that being God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Love of God was so overwhelming – and believe me, words fail at this point – the Love of God was so strong and pervasive, that creation came into existenence.

Understand a philosophical point here, because it is important.  God is perfect.  Implying that anything that changed would be to move God from perfection to imperfection.  So, I would throw out there that we weren’t just a decision that God made to create something.

There wasn’t a time when God said, “You know what would be better?  A universe!  A creation!  A cosmos!”  Because God, being perfect, can’t make anything better.  If it were better, that would imply that before it existed, it was imperfect.

We are found in Christ, in God, from the very beginning.  We have to be.  Not because of us, but because of God.  I’m sorry if this gets confusing.  How can the creature comprehend the creator?

It is I suspect necessary that we understand that we are, all of us and each of us, expressions of God’s love, the result of God’s love.  How can I explain it?  You know how on a cold day, when we exhale, a small cloud of water vapor forms?  We can (quote) “smoke” with our breath?

That is the result of our breathing.  We don’t will that cloud into existence, but our breath warms the air immediately around us, and the water vapor forms, and we see our breath.  It is a natural consequence of the act of breathing.

It is this type of scenario I’m trying to describe, to better understand our relationship to God.  God didn’t have to decide anything.  We are a product of God – a product of His character, and of His Love.  Just like our exhale will, under the right conditions, produce a small cloud, so does God’s love produce us.

From the beginning, until now, and forever more, God will love us.  What got in the way of the love of God is our ego.  I know that I’m repeating myself, reminding everyone that Adam and Eve’s sin was allowing their ego to supersede God’s direction.  They decided for themselves what they would do or not do.  This broke the love God created us with.

It separated us – our ego, our pride, our self-focus – separated us from God’s love, from God’s presence.  And only through our repentance can we be reconnected to God.  And when we are reconnected to God – brothers and sisters, that is our Pascha.  That is our resurrection.  That is the absolute restoration of our selves.

What Christ did in the Garden of Gethsemane is tell the Father, in my Humanity, Father, I don’t want to do this.  Nevertheless, I will do this because Your will is important, and my human will gets in the way.

We do that too.  Christ has shown us the way.  Christ has shown us the model.  We die to self, we crucify our ego, voluntarily, so that we may reconnect to God.  So that we can experience resurrection.  To experience Pascha for ourselves.  To, like Thomas, experience God’s presence in our lives.  Here, and now, and forever.

Christ is risen.