Sunday of Saint Thomas

Christ is Risen!

In the Byzantine Rite, the Sunday after Easter is known as “Thomas Sunday.” On this day we commemorate the belief of Saint Thomas the Apostle, who is often referred to as “Doubting Thomas.” Rather than focusing on doubt, however, the Church sees in Thomas’ unbelief an opportunity for great faith.

After the crucifixion and death of Jesus, Thomas was lost in despair and confusion, so much so that he didn’t gather with his fellow disciples for their evening meal when the Risen Lord first appeared to them. On the following day, they found Thomas and related to him the good news of the Resurrection. Despairing, Thomas said:

“Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.”

The next Sunday evening Jesus once again stood among the disciples in the same locked room. This time Thomas was present. Jesus turned to Thomas and said:

“Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

When Saint Thomas touched the Life-giving side of the Lord, he no longer had any doubts. He fell to his knees in awe and professed:

“My Lord and my God!”

Thomas’ initial unbelief transformed into a greater manifestation of the reality of Christ’s Resurrection in the flesh. The Slavonic inscription on his icon reads “The Belief of Thomas,” emphasizing his confession of faith rather than his doubt. The writings of Saint John Chrysostom and Blessed Archbishop Theofylact of Bulgaria, among others, explain that the expression “My Lord and my God” indicates the dual nature of Christ.

It is believed that Saint Thomas preached the gospel in India, where he angered local religious authorities, who martyred him by running him through with a spear.

Paschal Greetings

Christ is Risen from the dead, by death He trampled Death and to those in the tombs, He granted Life!
Хс҄рсто́съ воскре́се ᾿изъ ме́ртвыхъ, сме́ртїю сме́рть попра́въ, ᾿и су́щимъ во гробѣ́хъ Живо́тъ дарова́въ!
Χριστὸς ἀνέστη ἐκ νεκρῶν, θανάτῳ θάνατον πατήσας, καὶ τοῖς ἐν τοῖς μνήμασι, ζωὴν χαρισάμενος!

O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? Christ is risen and you are abolished. Christ is risen and the demons are cast down. Christ is risen and the angels rejoice. Christ is risen and life is freed. Christ is risen and the tomb is emptied of the dead: for Christ, being risen from the dead, has become the Leader and Reviver of those who had fallen asleep. To Him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen! – Excerpt from Easter Homily of St. John Chrysostom

May the peace, joy, and hope of the Resurrection reign in your hearts!
Christ is Risen!  Христос Воскресе!  Χριστὸς ἀνέστη!

The Good Thief

One thief, releasing his spirit, cursed the Son of God: “If you are the Christ, save yourself and us.” The other thief prayed to the Lord: “Remember me, O Lord, when you come into your kingdom!”

The torments of crucifixion killed both the body and the soul of one thief, whereas the sufferings killed the body but saved the soul of the other.

The Cross of Christ was destruction for one of the thieves, but salvation for the other.

Great and Holy Friday

Filled with infinite love in inexpressible humility, Jesus accepted the supreme abasement of the Cross.

“He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed” – (Isaiah 53:5).

What can we offer Our Lord in return for His immeasurable sacrificial love poured out for us on the Cross? He Himself answered this question:

“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34–35).

Holy (Maundy) Thursday

When the glorious disciples were enlightened at the washing of their feet before the supper,
the impious Judas was darkened by the disease of avarice,
and to the lawless judges he betrayed You, the Righteous Judge.
Behold, this man because of avarice hanged himself.
Flee from the insatiable desire which dared such things against the Master!
O Lord Who deals righteously with all, glory to You! – Troparion for Holy Thursday

“Bible Answer Man” Hank Hanegraaf joins Orthodox Church

The “Bible Answer Man” addressed his conversion to the Orthodox faith on his program in response to a caller who had seen remarks claiming that, in becoming Orthodox, Mr. Hanegraaff had left the Christian faith. He responded:

“I am now a member of an Orthodox Church, but nothing has changed in my faith. I have been attending an Orthodox church for a long time—for over two years, really, as a result of what happened when I went to China, many years ago. I saw Chinese Christians who were deeply in love with the Lord, and I learned that while they may not have had as much intellectual acumen or knowledge as I did, they had life. And so I learned that while truth matters, life matters more, and I remember flying back from China after spending time with just common people who had a deep, intense love for the Lord, and wondering, ‘Was I even a Christian?’

I was comparing my ability to communicate truth with their deep and abiding love for the Lord Jesus Christ… One man, by the way, said to me, truth matters but life matters more. In other words, it is not just knowing about Jesus Christ, it is experiencing the Resurrected Christ. As a result of that I started studying what was communicated by the progeny of Watchman Nee with respect to theosis and that drove me back to the early Christian Church.

And I suppose over that period of time I have fallen ever more in love with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It’s sort of like my wife—I have never been more in love with my wife than I am today, and I’ve never been more in love with my Lord Jesus Christ than I am today. I’ve been impacted by the whole idea of knowing Jesus Christ, experiencing Jesus Christ, andpartaking of the graces of Jesus Christ through the Eucharist or the Lord’s Table. And that has become so central in my life, but as far as the statement that you mentioned, that I’ve left the Christian faith—nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact I believe what I have always believed, as codified in the Nicene Creed, and as championed by mere Christianity.

After reciting the entire Nicene Creed, he concluded:

“In other words, I am as deeply committed to championing mere Christianity and the essentials of the historic Christian faith, as I have ever been.”

Hank Hanegraaff has served as the president and chairman of the board of the North Carolina-based Christian Research Institute (CRI) since 1989, when he also took over previous-president’s radio talk-show “The Bible Answer Man.” The show includes answering questions about matters of Christian doctrine and history and Biblical interpretation, and denominational particularities. He has been an outspoken critic of non-Christian religions, new religious movements and cults, and heresies within conservative Christianity. He is also the author of over twenty books.

In March, Mr. Hanegraaff answered a caller’s question about the Orthodox teaching of theosis, ably explaining the doctrine of man’s sanctification on both a Biblical and Patristic basis. “We become Christ-bearers since His Body and Blood are distributed throughout our limbs, as Cyril of Jerusalem said… The whole idea being that we become by grace what God is by nature… We become, as Peter put it, partakers in the divine nature,” the Bible Answer Man explained.

– Excerpted from Pravoslavie, 10 April 2017

Holy Wednesday: Unction of Healing and Forgiveness

“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the presbyters of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven” (James 5: 14–15).

Healing of the infirm was one of the signs of our Lord’s divine ministry. He healed those who were blind, paralysed, possessed, crippled, deaf, dumb, and all types of infirmities. The gift of healing was given to the Holy Apostles and through them to the bishops and priests. One of the ways that healing was done was through the anointing of the sick with blessed oil.

The Mystery (Sacrament) of Holy Unction is a service of the anointing of the sick with blessed oil. It is the Church’s specific prayer for the spiritual, physical, and mental healing of the infirm. Is there any one of us who does not need healing for some physical, emotional, or spiritual illness? As Saint James says in his Epistle, Holy Unction is not only for healing, but it is also for the forgiveness of our sins.

Although this service can be celebrated any time during the year when one is ill, the Mystery (Sacrament) of Holy Unction is traditionally celebrated on Holy Wednesday evening in parishes observing the Byzantine Rite tradition.

Bridegroom Matins: Tuesday of Holy Week

How shall I, the unworthy one,
appear in the splendor of Thy saints?
For if I dare enter Thy bridal chamber with them,
my garments will betray me;
they are unfit for a wedding.
The angels will cast me out in chains.
Cleanse the filth of my soul, O Lord,
and save me in Thy love.

+ Praise Verse (Tone 1) of Bridegroom Matins of Holy Tuesday

Patriarch Joseph the All-Comely: A Prefigure of Christ

On Holy and Great Monday, the Byzantine Rite churches commemorate the righteous Patriarch Joseph, the son of Jacob in the Old Testament. In our churches, he is referred to as “Joseph the All-Comely,” a reference to the beauty of his deeply spiritual life. Joseph is mentioned in the New Testament by Saint Paul as an example of faith (Hebrews 11:22).

Joseph was considered the favorite son of his father. Out of envy, his brothers trapped him and threw him into a pit. In an attempt to deceive their father, Joseph’s brothers used a bloody garment to convince him that Joseph had been devoured by a wild animal. The brothers then sold Joseph as a slave to traders, who in turn sold him to the chief chef of the Pharaoh of Egypt.

Having become known for his astute ability of dream interpretation, Joseph was summoned by the Pharaoh to interpret his dreams. Impressed with Joseph’s interpretations, the Pharaoh appointed Joseph as second-in-command of Egypt (Genesis 41:41). Therefore, Joseph is frequently depicted in icons wearing the headdress of an Egyptian vizier.

In addition to honoring him, the Byzantine Rite of the Church considers Joseph as a typological precursor or prefigure of Christ. Saint John Chrysostom taught that Joseph’s suffering was “a type of things to come.” Like Joseph, Christ was betrayed and sold by a trusted source. Whereas Joseph saved his people by the distribution of grain, our Lord feeds and sanctifies us with the Heavenly Bread of His own life-bearing flesh. In certain patristic texts, Joseph’s famous coat is viewed as a symbolic representation of the diversity of peoples that would ultimately be evangelized and converted to faith in Christ.

As we remember the righteous Patriarch Joseph, may our hearts be inflamed with love and gratitude for our Savior, who suffered and arose victoriously, granting us forgiveness and salvation. And through the prayers of Saint Joseph the All-Comely, may Christ our God have mercy on us and save us!