Archive for April, 2021

My Patron Saint Takes the Stage

April 10, 2021

I’ve always rather liked this weekend, Low Sunday, on the liturgical calendar. It’s also called Quasimodo Sunday, but that’s not the reason I like it. To me, today is special because it’s one of the few occasions when my patron saint – Thomas, who was called Didymus – took center stage in a Gospel story.

Say what you will about old Saint Tom. He didn’t just take your word for it. He wanted proof. And so, when the other apostles had told him that they had seen the Risen Lord on the evening of Easter Sunday, at a meeting where Thomas was not yet present, he was doubtful – hence the term “a doubting Thomas.” If Tom were still with us today, he’d probably be a senator from Missouri, the “Show Me” state.

He might have been a doubter a bit later on, but Thomas was devoted and fully on board as an apostle. In John 11, when Jesus planned to return to Judea, the disciples warned him of those “now seeking to stone you”. Thomas replied, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

At the Last Supper, before the doubting Thomas story that really made him famous, Thomas could not comprehend what Jesus meant when he said, “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas asked him “How can we know the way?” to which Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

Here is the “doubting Thomas” passage from John 20:

“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said unto them, ‘Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.’

And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace be unto you.’

 Then saith he to Thomas, ‘Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.’

And Thomas answered and said unto him, ‘My Lord and my God.’

Jesus saith unto him, ‘Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.’”

Thomas needed some convincing from the Top Guy, but once he got it he became the first of the apostles to acknowledge Jesus’s divinity.

Another reason I have never forgotten this story. One time, back in Saint John’s, “Sister” asked the class “Who said ‘My Lord and my God?’” Nobody knew the answer, and Sister said she was surprised that I, Thomas, did not know it. It stuck in my mind forever, after that.

Leonardo da Vinci must have had this passage in mind when he painted The Last Supper. Thomas and his trusty index finger are almost front-and-center, as you can see from the accompanying cut. Jesus has just dropped a bombshell on the gathering:

Thomas, with upraised index finger, demands to know “Is it I, Lord?”

“And as they did eat, he said, Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.

And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?

And he answered and said, He that dippeth his hand with me in the dish, the same shall betray me.”

Thomas is the closest to Jesus, getting right up in his face with that finger which, ten days thence, will probe the nail holes in Jesus’s hands. He’s doubting then too. Looks rather ticked off at the suggestion, if you ask me.

And from the other side of Jesus, opposite Thomas, you can see the hand of Judas and the hand of Jesus, each reaching toward the bread which they will dip into the dish.

That’s the complete story of my guy Thomas and his dramatic confrontation with Jesus.  We hear it every year on Low Sunday – so called, most likely, because it ends the Octave of Easter and is opposed to the “high” feast of Easter itself.

The hands of Judas (left) and Jesus (right) grasp for the bread which they will dip into the dish together.

And why is the day also called Quasimodo Sunday? Glad you asked that too.

No, it’s got nothing to do with the Hunchback of Notre Dame. It stems from the days of the mass in Latin. The introductory prayer, or the Introit, of that day, goes thusly:

Quasi modo géniti infántes, allelúia: rationábile, sine dolo lac concupíscite, allelúia, allelúia, allelúia.

Which, translated into English, is:

“As newborn infants do (alleluia), covet milk that is rational, without dolosity (alleluia, alleluia, alleluia).”

I think that nowadays we all could use a dash of my patron saint’s skepticism. Don’t believe everything you read, on line or anywhere else. Trust, but verify.

May God bless and keep you today, as Eastertide recedes toward its ultimate end on Pentecost, or Whitsunday, as they say in the UK.