Orthodox America


  O Blessed Unbelief!


We have Just celebrated the most glorious victory the world in has ever known-- Christ's Resurrection from the dead. The chains of death--which had held mankind captive from all ages--were broken; the light of Christ dispelled the shadow of the law and illumined the ancient prophecies concerning the kindgom to come. With Christ's Resurrection came the understanding that His kingdom was not of this world. It was the gospel of this other-worldly Kingdom of God which the Apostles proclaimed and which is the continuing message of Christianity to all generations. Who could fail to be drawn by the resplendent beauty of the Paschal services, to sense the tremulous excitement at the unveiling of such a mystery. Each year we anticipate the midnight proclamation: "Christ is Risen!" and within our hearts resounds the joyous affirmation: "Truly He is Risen!" Indeed, this              time of jubilation for all believers. But, amidst all the festivities that follow, do we ever stop to ask ourselves just how deep is our participation in this "chosen and holy  day," this '"Feast of Feasts and  Triumph of Triumphs"?  When the Apostles heard from the                                  myrrhbearing women the glad tidings  struck with unbelief; "their words  seemed to them as idle tales." Neither did they believe the report of Cleopas and his companion. How many times in the Gospel does Our Lord reproach His disciples for their unbelief. Because of unbelief they were unable to heal  the possessed child; because of unbelief the Hebrews from Egypt  did not enter into the Promised Land; because of unbelief the Jews                   were "broken off" (Rom. 11:20). Even Christ did not perform many miracles in His own country around Nazareth "because of  their unbelief."

 

Be not faithless, but believing.

      And suddenly we hear the Church exult: "O the beautiful un belief of Thomas" (Vesperstichera, Thomas Sunday). How is this to be explained? Not long before, Thomas had shown such enthusiastic faith in the Lord as to say to the other Apostles: Let us go "that we may die with Him" (John 11:16). Now he turns to them and says, "Except ! 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." What is perhaps even more surprising, the Lord does not rebuke Thomas for his unbelief, but says to him: "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." The Lord did not deem Thomas unworthy for his lack of faith; rather, He granted him a complete assurance of faith, for He knew that Thomas had expressed unbelief not out of cold, rational skepticism, but out of earnest desire for a real knowledge of the Risen Christ, attaining which he cried out, "My Lord and my God!"

    Thomas' unbelief is all the more precious to us who live today in a world fraught with religious skepticism, cynicism, and scientific rationalism on the one hand, and deceptive cults with their false Christs on the other. Are we not like that generation, "faithless and perverse," which Christ rebuked in the Gospel saying, "How long shall I be with you? ho w long shall I suffer you?" This is a most difficult time both within and without the life of the Church. If we are not altogether faithless, our deeds only prove that our faith does not even measure up to the size of a mustard seed. But thanks be to God for His longsuffering towards us. In His condescending love for mankind, the Saviour allowed Thomas to physically touch the imprints of the nails on His hands, testifying to skeptics for centuries to come that this was not some kind of vision, but the very Lord, the Messiah Jesus Christ, Who rose bodily from the grave.

    In his exclamation, "My Lord and my God!" the holy Apostle confesses the two natures of Christ, human and divine. The other Apostles had already witnessed the Lord's sudden appearance to them, "the doors being shut," when He ate a piece of broiled fish and honeycomb. The Mystery of Christ' s kingdom, which is not of this world, was being unveiled before them. "Then opened He their understanding, that they     The Apostles' missionary zeal, their wholehearted dedication to seeking first the Kingdom of God, losing their life in this world that they might gain it in the next--this was all sparked by the same message we hear every year at Pascha: *'Christ is Risen!" What kind of activity does this kindle in us? Where is our faith that would make the lame to walk and the blind to see? faith to tear ourselves away from the spirit of this world? faith to live for God alone--and not for ourselves? Brothers and sisters, like Thomas, let us be earnest to strengthen our faith to a full knowledge of Christ. Let us not be lukewarm in our faith, but entreat the Lord in the words of the holy Church: "Make us understand, as Thomas, that we may call out to Thee, My Lord and my God!"

 

Editor, Fr. A!exey Young

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