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Redeeming the Time Vol. 03.01 St Thomas Sunday Apr 5/18 1999

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

News and Announcements *

A Note about Prayer during the Pentecostarion period *

Newly illumined *

New Catechumen *

Marriage of Laurence and Natasha *

Questions about the Appearances of the Risen Christ *

Questions about St Thomas Sunday *

The Serbian Orthodox Church to Her Spiritual Children at Pascha, 1999 *

Answers to Questions about Appearances *

Answers to Questions about Thomas Sunday *

Gleanings from the Fathers *

The Personal Meaning of the Resurrection *
News and Announcements

A Note about Prayer during the Pentecostarion period

The prayer to the Holy Spirit, "O Heavenly King", said in almost every Orthodox prayer service, is NOT said from Paschal matins (the first service of the Pentecostarion), which begins at midnight on the Sunday of Pascha, until the Vespers service for Pentecost. Anywhere this prayer occurs it is omitted, and until Ascension Thursday, is substituted with the Paschal troparion (Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life), sung three times. We are like the Apostles during this period, "waiting" for the Holy Spirit to come, and the absence of this prayer makes a strong statement of our profound need for the Holy Spirit.

Also, during this time, we do not normally do prostrations, unless our spiritual father instructs us to do them for some reason. In any case, no prostrations are done in the church until the day of Pentecost.

Newly illumined

Congratulations and many years to Laurence, who was baptized on Holy Saturday.

New Catechumen

Greg Ogden desires to be an Orthodox Christian, and if all goes according to plan, will be received into the ranks of the catechumens today. Please remember to pray for him

Marriage of Laurence and Natasha

Larry and Natasha will be joined in holy matrimony this Sunday, at 4:00 PM. All are invited to witness their vows, and pray for their happiness and mutual salvation together.

Questions about the Appearances of the Risen Christ

QUESTION 1The appearances of Jesus after His Resurrection are recounted in a series of ___ Gospels that are read serially in the Sunday matins services. Each one of these readings also has a matching set of 2 hymns that are sung at the end of matins after ________ and ____________. These hymns are called the __________ with its matching ___________ and the ________________.


How many appearances of Jesus to all or most of the apostles are recorded? Describe each visit briefly.


Which apostle saw the risen Jesus first? Who appears to have believed in the resurrection first?


Who appears to have seen the resurrected Lord first? Who actually saw the risen Lord first?


Which two disciples saw Jesus while walking in the country? Where is this story found? This is easy if you know who the two disciples are! Tell the story briefly. How many times do you hear this story in church (approximately)?


How were angels involved on the day of the resurrection? How many angels were involved in announcing the resurrection?


Who saw the risen Lord "as one out of due time"?


Describe the first appearance to the 11. Since the recounting of the events of Christ is more that just history, but also is a sacred record full of deep and inner meaning, try to discuss aspects of this visit from more that just a strictly historical view. Are there any truths that can be gleaned here?


Describe the appearance of the risen Christ to most of the apostles, when they were plying their trade. In what Gospel is this story found? Contrast certain aspects of this appearance with a similar incident that had occurred 3 years before. Don't forget to discuss an important discussion that occurred at this time.


Give a summarized Chronology of the first day of the resurrection.

Questions about St Thomas Sunday


When is the Sunday of St. Thomas? Why? On the Sunday of St. Thomas, two hymns normally sung in Sunday matins are not sung. What are these hymns? Why are they not sung?


A Hymn normally sung once in Sunday matins is sung three times, in the matins for St. Thomas Sunday, and until when? What is the hymn?


How many days after the resurrection were required for Thomas to believe? Why did he not originally believe?


How does the Holy Spirit, through the services, characterize Thomas' unbelief?


What strident words did the Holy Apostle Thomas say, which were quite similar to the Holy Apostle Peter's just before the Passion Week of our Savior? Were these words shown to be sincere?


"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 ... Then saith he to Thomas ... and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God." (John 20:26-27 (parts), 20:28)

What is the theological meaning of St. Thomas' expression of worship?


How many times had the apostles as a group seen the risen Lord before St. Thomas saw Him and believed?


What important priestly charism was given by Christ when He came to the upper room the first time He saw the apostles?


What far away land did St. Thomas spread the Gospel to, where he met his end as a martyr?


What is unique about how the church reads the story of the doubting of Thomas?

The Serbian Orthodox Church to Her Spiritual Children at Pascha, 1999

Pavle, By the Grace of God, Orthodox Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch, with all the Hierarchs of the Serbian Orthodox Church: to all the honorable clergy, venerable monastics and all the faithful sons and daughters of our Holy Church, send their Paschal blessing and greeting:

Christ is Risen!

I am the Resurrection and the Life; whoever believes in Me, even if he dies, yet shall he live. John 11:25

Our dear spiritual children, people will ask you: why does belief in the Resurrection of Christ, in its irrefutable historical reality, represent the very foundation of the Orthodox Christian faith? Why is the feast of the Resurrection called the Feast of Feasts and Holy Day of Holy Days? Why does this greatest of feasts take the central place in the yearly cycle of church festivals? Why are the Paschal liturgical services, culminating in the Paschal Divine Liturgy, the most beautiful and radiant of all the Church's services? Answer them simply, but with conviction and convincingly: because Resurrection means rising from the dead, and so is the complete and final victory over the ultimate, final, greatest and, until Christ, unconquerable enemy: death. The crucified Christ breathed His last upon the Cross and so, in His human nature, died a real death; but He also really rose from the tomb, truly "rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures." So the Holy Apostle Paul was completely correct when he declared that the Christian faith and Christian preaching would be empty and in vain if Christ has not risen. (I Corinthians 15:14, 17)

In this regard, one of our great spiritual fathers and theologians has written that every philosophy, and especially every religion, must be tested on exactly this question, the central question of human existence and activity, on the question of death. And only Christianity has passed this test before each person and before mankind; it has passed this test, and moreover, it has passed it not with words but through deeds in the actual event of the Resurrection of Christ.... After the Resurrection of Christ, everything becomes clear and it is with good reason that the Apostle cries out joyfully, "O death, where is thy sting? O hell, where is thy victory?" (I Corinthians 15:55) The Resurrection of Christ means and witnesses to one single truth, to this good and joyful news: "Death is swallowed up in victory!" (I Cor. 15:54) Hades or hell as the state of death, as the windowless domain of spiritual darkness where neither God nor man can be seen, has received in Christ's Resurrection a fatal blow. It has been embittered with no hope of remedy because, in the words of St. John Chrysostom, by coming face to face with the Risen Lord it has been emptied and mocked, it has been bound with chains, ruined and, moreover, deadened. Truly the event of the Resurrection is the triumph of life, and the very death of death.

If we are children of the Church and Orthodox Christians, that is, "if we believe that Jesus is dead and risen" (I Thessalonians 4:14), then in our words, our deeds and in our entire being we must be witnesses to His Resurrection (see Luke 24:46-48 and Acts 1:22), and so witnesses of the risen Lord Himself (see Acts 1:8). It is so very important and necessary for us to realize that the Resurrection of Christ is also our resurrection, the resurrection of each of us, personally and individually. Indeed we confess and proclaim this great truth in the words of the Creed: "I await the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come." In His teaching to his disciples and the people during His open ministry, the Savior did not say that only He would be given over to death and rise again three days later (Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22, 24:6-7 and 46, John 20:9), but also that all who believe in Him "will arise on the last day" (John 6:39-40, 44, 54). The risen Christ is therefore not alone: He is "the first fruits of the dead" (I Cor. 15:20, 23), or "the firstborn of the dead" (Col. 1:18 and Revelation 1:5), or the "first who should rise from the dead" (Acts 26:23), and so the "firstborn of many brothers" (Romans 8:29) who belong to "the general assembly and Church of the firstborn" (Hebrews 12:23).

You may be asking yourselves: How can this be? How is such a connection possible? How can we expect to escape death through the general resurrection simply on the basis that a particular historical Person once, nearly two thousand years ago, rose from the dead? This is indeed the case, brothers and sisters, and it is not only possible but actual, because Christ is the God-Man, the one and only Person who is by nature both fully and truly divine and fully and truly human. Joined to the fullness of divinity in Him, inseparably and indivisibly, but without mixture or change, His human nature was without sin. Therefore He did not die on the Cross because He had to die, as must all sinful men who are infected with mortality; sin, after all, is only the breaking of the life-giving union of love with God by man. On the contrary, Christ voluntarily gave Himself over to death, sacrificing Himself "for the life of the world and for its salvation." But in really, painfully dying on the Cross, tasting for Himself all the tragedy of death, He died as a man, and not as God: as God He is the living God and the God of the living, eternally "on the throne with the Father and the Holy Spirit," for "it was not possible that the Lord of Life should be held captive by death" (the Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great; see Acts 2:24). He arises as God, or more precisely as the God-Man, for His human nature is returned from death to life, but not to the passing and corrupt life of this world, but to the life of the age to come, unfallen and indestructible. Still, human nature belongs to His own Person, as well as to every human being.

Therefore, His resurrection is also the resurrection of our nature and through it of each of us as persons: "For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection from the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive." (I Cor. 15: 21-22) In these brilliant words we can understand the two-fold nature of the Gospel's witness concerning the Resurrection of Christ: while it is said in many places that Christ has risen, in still other places the holy apostles witness about "Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved by God," that God has raised Him up (Acts 2: 22-24; 2:31-32; 13:30-37, and 17:31), by the Holy Spirit.(see Romans 1:4)

In this way we experience the Resurrection of Christ as the resurrection of life, based on the personal relationship between God and man, and on the mutual love which is the content of that relationship. Believing in Christ's Resurrection and joyously celebrating it, we together express our "hope in God that there will be a resurrection of the dead." (Acts 24:15; 24:21; I Cor. 15:12-13 and 42-57; Hebrews 6:2), a general resurrection "on the last day" (John 11:24). There would be no resurrection for us men at the end of history without Christ's Resurrection in history: "[If Christ is not risen] then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished." (I Cor. 15:18) If that is the case, than we, instead of the bright joy of Pascha as the passing over from death to eternal life, are left with a mournful respect for the "shades of the dead"; and then we are "the most miserable of all people" for we can "only hope in Christ in this life." (I Cor. 15:19) Of course, we can also then say the reverse: "If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ risen." (I Cor. 15:13; 15:15-16)

But, brothers and sisters, our faith in Christ's resurrection and in the coming universal resurrection is not unfounded or a delusion of those who believe. It is, on the contrary, our directly experienced spiritual knowledge to the extent that we are true Orthodox Christians, which is to say, to the extent that we live in the Church and experience her as the Union of God and man, the Assembly of the Saints, the People of God, and not as an ideology or, still less, a religion. Already here and now, through our own incorporation into the Body of the Church in Holy Baptism, we can taste the final resurrection through our personal participation in the Cross and Resurrection of Christ (see Romans 6:3-5). In the same way, our whole Christian life and effort, through taking part in the sufferings of Christ, can make it possible for us to also take part in advance in the future resurrection of the dead. (see Philippians 3:10-11) We experience the high-point of this participation and the fullness of this foretaste in the Holy Liturgy of the Church, in our eucharistic union with Christ our risen Lord in Holy Communion. We are united with this Lord Who came into the world among us, Who comes to us through the Holy Spirit whenever we "gather together in one place" in His name, around His Holy Banquet Table of life and love. It is He Who "will come again in glory," and to Whom we ceaselessly and unrestrainedly call with the perfect words of the New Testament Scriptures: "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev. 22:20) The Body and Blood of Christ, the Bread of Life and the Drink of Immortality, our true Food and Drink, is the pledge of the resurrection "on the last day" and of eternal life. (see John 6:32-55) Man is not immortal on his own by nature or by the necessity of immortality, but only through Holy Communion in the grace-filled Gifts, which is participation in the Union with the Life-giver, as the risen Lord Himself teaches us: "As the living Father has sent Me, and as I live by the Father, so whoever eats Me shall also live through Me." (John 6:57)

The Gospel's true message of the Cross and Resurrection points us, our dear spiritual children, to the indispensable foundation of our life and work, which is our hope amid the hopelessness of an anti-spiritual civilization, and our optimism even under the merciless blows of the so-called new order of things in the world - new in name, but old in its inhumanity. Our experience and our truth, our value system and our social order, our sincere witness and our embracing of others as brothers begins today in our gracious Paschal experience going back twenty centuries. This means that it begins in the new life which is found in Christ and in the self-sacrificial accomplishment of the Cross, in the most joyous triumph of the Resurrection, in the unity of the Holy Spirit and in the universal unity of the Church as most perfectly proclaimed and realized in the communion we all have with Him. As we pray together in one of our hymns, "O great and most holy Pascha, Christ..., grant that we may more perfectly partake of Thee in the never-ending day of Thy Kingdom!" Therefore we seek, and we offer to our neighbors, a way out of all troubles and an answer to all their questions and to ours, here and now, from the only true Christ, the Lord of Glory, our personal Passover, the Lamb of God who suffered and sacrificed Himself for us (see I Cor. 5:7), but Who will triumph and has already triumphed over the seven-headed dragon of the abyss of the Apocalypse, together with all its servants and allies throughout history. (see Revelation 17:7-14)

Here is the answer to one of the most difficult questions of humanity today- to the question of how to care for the world in which we live, how to save our environment and our common human home. In faithfulness to the Cross, we will preserve it by sacrificing ourselves for the world and not sacrificing the world to us; illuminated by the Resurrection and made worthy by our calling to be kings and priests of God's creation (Rev. 5:10), in the Church we will save and transfigure not only ourselves but also nature, as we come to perceive through faith "the new heaven and new earth." (Rev. 21:1)

Herein is also to be found the way out of the drama of our Kosovo and Metohija, that part of our Fatherland which, up until World War II, rightfully carried the title "Old Serbia," which represents today and for all time will continue to represent the cradle of Serbia and the spiritual center of all of Orthodox Serbdom. All genuine suggestions and honorable efforts to solve the problems there deserve respect if they contribute to a solution by which the Serbian people can live in Kosovo and Metohija in peace and freedom, together with the Albanians and all other peoples, all equally sharing the same rights. Deserving of every moral condemnation is the brutal attack of the NATO pact on Yugoslavia: NATO has caused terrible suffering and destruction while offering the unsurpassedly cynical explanation that it wishes to prevent a "humanitarian catastrophe."

NATO's violent "logic" simply means a tragedy, both for the Serbian people and for all the ethnic communities of Kosovo and Metohija. But, instead of a criminal war of conquest and death, we Orthodox Christians above all must act according to and must offer to the process our experience of the Cross and Resurrection - that is, we must remain faithful to or if necessary return to the ancient Testament of Kosovo, which is the spiritual and historical application of the eternal New Testament of Christ as found in the path and the legacy of the Holy and honorable Prince Lazar, that hero and knight of the freedom to be found not in this world, but in the holiness and justice of the Kingdom of Heaven. There can be no defeat on this path, for it is illumined by the radiance of the Resurrection.

May the torments and the anxieties of our times fade away before the light and the joy of the Resurrection of the Lord! Let us never forget that His Resurrection is the beginning, the sure guarantee and the stable foundation, of our resurrection! Let there be death and destruction to no one, but life and salvation to all living things and to everything that exists!

With these thoughts, emotions and prayerful best wishes we once more greet you with the most joyous and oft-repeated of all greetings:

Christ is Risen!

Given at the Serbian Patriarchate in Belgrade at Pascha, 1999.

Your intercessors before the Lord:

Archbishop of Pec, Metropolitan of Belgrade-Karlovci and Serbian Patriarch PAVLE

(All other bishops signed here also)

Answers to Questions about Appearances

The appearances of Jesus after His resurrection are recounted in a series of 11 Gospels that are read serially in the Sunday matins service. Each one of these readings also has a matching set of 2 hymns which are sung at the end of matins after the Sunday Exapostilarion (Holy is the Lord our God...) and the last sticheron of the praises (after the refrain "Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit"). These hymns are called the Exapostilarion of the resurrection with its matching Theotokion and the Doxasticon of the Resurrection.

The Exapostilarion and Doxastikon summarize and emphasize certain aspects of the Gospel selection, in a leisurely and poetic way.

The Holy Scriptures record 4 times when Jesus appeared to all or most of the apostles.

The first appearance was to all the "eleven" save Thomas on the day of Christ's resurrection, when He entered their room at night, even though the doors where locked. The second was to all the apostles, with Thomas, eight days later.

St John reports these first two appearances (in the ninth matins resurrection Gospel, John 20:19-31):

Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. {20} And when he had so said, he showed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19-20)


But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. {25} 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. {26} 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. (John 20:24-26)

The 3rd reported appearance was when he beckoned to 7 of them from the shore, and told them to let down their nets, and they caught a great multitude of fish.

(This is reported in the 10th Matins Resurrection Gospel, John 21:1-14):

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise showed he himself. {2} There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathaniel of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. {3} Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. {4} But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. {5} Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. {6} And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. (John 21:1-6)

The last recorded appearance is by St Matthew at the very end of his Gospel (Matt 28:16-20, the 1st matins resurrection Gospel). St. Matthew only gives a quick summary of events after the resurrection, mentioning only one appearance of Jesus to the apostles, which must have been after the previous three:

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. {17} And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. {18} And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. {19} Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: {20} Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Mat 28:16-20)

On the day of the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to (in order) Mary Magdalene, two disciples who were in the country, to Peter alone, and to the eleven in the upper room (save Thomas). St Luke's account shows this order (See the 5th Matins Gospel, Luke 24:12-35,and the 6th, Luke 24:36-53).

Blessed Theophylact explains the texts especially well.

Therefore, among the disciples and apostles, Christ appeared first to the 2 disciples out in the country (see another question), and among the apostles, Peter was the first to see the risen Lord.

The first apostle to believe in the resurrection was St John, who believed after seeing the empty tomb in the early morning, according to his own account:

The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. {2} Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. {3} Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. {4} So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. {5} And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. {6} Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, {7} And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. {8} Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. {9} For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. (John 20:1-9, the 7th matins Gospel of the Resurrection)

"'Twas the Beloved Disciple John, whose heart was pure and undimmed by timidity, who before all others descried the light of the risen Christ through spiritual eyes; and with his bodily eyes did he behold the manifested Lord."

(Saint John of Shanghai and San Francisco, Paschal Epistle, 1956, Paris (see that the "one whom Jesus loved" is a code that St John uses for himself. We know this from Holy Tradition, as the scripture is not absolutely explicit about the identity of this man (since St. John is the only evangelist to use this expression, we cannot reasonably expect him to explain it!) It is interesting to note that even among those who substantially reject Holy Tradition and subscribe to the unscriptural notion that the entire revelation from God is ONLY in the scriptures believe that this man was John. Such rejecters believe in and are dependant on more Holy Tradition than they are aware of, including more than just incidental information like this, such as the very councils that established the canon of scripture, and carefully defined doctrines of the two natures and wills of Christ, and many other things. May God lead them to the fullness of true belief.


Mary Magdalene is cited by St Mark as being the first to see the risen Christ:

Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. (Mark 16:9), part of the 3rd matins resurrection Gospel, Mark 16:9-20)This scripture would seem to decide the matter, but the holy tradition of the church, which is able to discern things spiritually, speaks otherwise. The very fact that from Pascha till the eve of the Ascension the church chants the beautiful hymn:

"The angel cried unto her who is full of grace,[saying] 'Rejoice, rejoice O Pure Virgin;again I say, rejoice!For thy Son is risen from the grave on the third day.'"(St. John of Damascus)

serves to indicate that there is a hidden story in the scriptures concerning the Mother of God and her risen Son. St Gregory Palamas eloquently explains this hidden treasure of knowledge, in a sermon about the Holy Myrrh-bearers. Only a small part of that sermon is shown below, so that you will see this wonderful truth.

...After the resurrection, the first person who saw Him was a woman, as we heard in Mark's gospel reading: "Now when Jesus was risen in the morning of the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene." (Mk 16:9)

Clearly, it would appear therefore that the Evangelist stated both the time of Christ's resurrection, that is, the morning, and that He appeared first to Mary Magdalene and at precisely the time of His arising. But that is not what it really says, as will be evident when we study the matter a little more closely, because the Evangelist previously said, in agreement with the other Evangelists, that this woman named Mary came to the tomb earlier, "very early in the morning" (v 16:2), with the other myrrhbearing women. And when they found the tomb empty they departed.


Now, there is something mentioned by the Evangelists in a very shadowy way and I will reveal it to you. Indeed the good news of the Lord's resurrection, as is proper and fitting, was received from Him first by the Theotokos, prior to all other men. Also prior to all others, she saw Him and delighted in His divine speaking. And she not only saw Him with her own eyes and heard Him with her own ears, but she alone first touched His sacred feet with her own hands.

However, the Evangelists do not say these things openly, because they did not wish to present the testimony of His Mother so they would not be giving unbelievers an excuse for suspicion. But now, through the grace of Him who is risen, we can explain it to the faithful.


I surmise and gather from all the Evangelists, therefore, that the Theotokos was the first person to come to the tomb of the Son of God, accompanied by Mary Magdalene. I conclude this mainly from the Evangelist Matthew, because he says, "...Mary Magdalene came and the other Mary" (Matt 28:1), Who was most certainly the Mother of God, to see the tomb. "And behold there was a great earthquake, for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and rolled back the stone from the entrance, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightening, and his rainment white as snow. And for fear of him, the keepers trembled and became as dead." (v.2-8) All the other women, therefore, came after the earthquake and after the guards fled, and found the tomb open and the stone moved away. But the Mother of God arrived at the moment the earthquake was happening, the stone was being moved and the tomb was opened. The guards, although very shaken, were still present, and after the quake they rose up seeking to flee. But the Mother of God rejoiced beholding this scene. It seems to me that the life-bearing tomb was opened first of all for her, because through her all things were opened to us, all that is above in heaven and below on earth; and for her the angel so shone that, despite the darkness of the hour, she was able to see by the fullness of the angel's light not only the empty tomb but also the grave clothes neatly put aside and testifying to the resurrection of Him Who had been entombed.

Obviously, the evangelizing angel was Gabriel himself, because the moment he saw her rushing to the tomb, he, who in the beginning had said to her, "Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favor with God" (Lk.1: 30), hastens now and descends to tell the Ever-virgin the same thing again and to announce the resurrection from the dead of Him Who without seed was born from her, and to lift the stone and display the empty tomb and the grave clothes in order to confirm the good news.


Luke and Cleophas walked with the risen Christ as they made their way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. These 2 disciples had heard reports of the resurrection from the women, but were unable to believe. As they walked, Christ joined them, and expounded many things from the scriptures to them. At the end of their journey, as they ate, Jesus broke bread and blessed it, and it was only at this point that they recognized Him, and He vanished from their sight. Even though they had traveled the whole day and it was late, they immediately hurried back to Jerusalem, travelling late into the night, and joining the eleven who had also seen the risen Christ, while they were coming back to Jerusalem.

This moving story is the 5th matins resurrection gospel. (Luke 24:13-35) It is read on Bright Tuesday matins, as well as taking its place in the rotation of the 11 Gospels read during Sunday matins. This Gospel is therefore read on the 5th, 16th, and 27th Sundays after Pentecost. The total number of readings in most years is 4.

Angels were heavily involved in making the news of the resurrection manifest, both by announcing it, and by rolling away the stone of the tomb. We first encounter God's messengers in the very early morning:

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. {2} And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. {3} His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: {4} And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. {5} And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. {6} He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.(Mat 28:1-6)

Note that in this case, the two women were not bringing myrrh to anoint the Lord, but were only going to investigate the tomb. The "other Mary" is understood to be the Mother of God. After the announcement by the angel, Mary Magdalene went away, but the Theotokos stood by, and it was at this time that the angel gave to her a second "annunciation", that her Son was risen, and then Christ appeared to her. Mary Magdalene was filled with joy and fear, but did not completely believe in the resurrection yet. Because of her ignorance, and with great love, she later hastened to the tomb to anoint the Lord Jesus, and the recording of this incident reveals the agency of two angels:

Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. {2} And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. {3} And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. {4} And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: {5} And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? {6} He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, {7} Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. {8} And they remembered his words, {9} And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. {10} It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. {11} And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. (Luke 24:1-11)In this incident we see that the stone had already been rolled away from the tomb, and two angels announced to the small cadre of women the good news of the resurrection.

ANSWER 7The Apostle Paul testified that he saw the risen Lord:

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; {4} And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: {5} And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: {6} After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. {7} After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. {8} And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. (1 Cor 15:3-8)

The Apostle refers to Christ's appearance in this way because it was several years after the resurrection. He was formerly called Saul, and was a great persecutor of Christians. He met Christ on the road, as he was hurrying toward another murderous errand:

And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, {2} And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. {3} And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: {4} And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? {5} And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.(Acts 9:1-5)

On the first day of the week, that is Sunday, in the evening, Christ appeared to the 11 while they were gathered in a room, even though the doors were shut. Both St Luke and St John report this appearance, each emphasizing different things.

Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. (John 20:19)

The God-man Jesus Christ, Who easily left the tomb without disturbing the stone that closed it was not hindered by a closed and locked door. Our Lord's body after the resurrection teaches us something about the destiny of our bodies. Blessed Theophylact tells us that "this is how we must understand the body of the Lord after the resurrection: it is spiritual, refined, a stranger to all coarseness." (Blessed Theophylact, Commentary on St Luke) Our bodies will share in these attributes.

It is not without import that our Lord's first words were to give a blessing of "Peace". Only in the risen Lord may we obtain peace.

St John goes on the mention more of what the Lord said and did, which included the important ability of His priests to remit sins:

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. {22} And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: {23} Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. (John 20:21-23)

Some time during our Lord's forty days on earth after the resurrection, He appeared to seven of the disciples, who were fishing. This was an event similar to the time He called some of them to be his disciples, but with important differences, made possible by the passage of His three years of careful ministry to them. The first time the Lord told the apostles to "let down their nets" is chronicled in Luke 5:1-13. More than three years later, the risen Lord gives the same instruction, as St. John records (John 21:1-25, comprising the 10th and 11th matins resurrection gospels). In the first case, our Lord only tells them to let down their nets, but to the tested apostles he tells them to let them down on the right side, and they obediently do so, as before, and are rewarded with a staggering catch of fish, which St John carefully mentions as one hundred fifty three. He marvels that there were so many, and yet the net was not broken. When the apostles were as yet uninitiated, and unlearned in spiritual things, the catch of fish broke their nets, and even when they had brought another ship to help with catch of fish, their boats began to sink. After their education and proving, their nets hold this great catch of fish, and one boat is able to contain it, without sinking. These fishers of fish were truly made worthy and able to be great fishers of men, and their net, that is the Gospel and the Christian way of life, would never break again, but will hold all those who come to the church.

In the previous instance, Peter was filled with fear, even asking the Lord to depart from him, as the as yet uninitiated apostle felt the full weight of his sins in the presence of the God-man. In this latter case, the exuberant Peter cannot wait to be beside his Lord, and throws on his fisher's cloak, and casts himself into the sea. He who formerly had fear because of his sins now has confidence, because He knows the Lord.

The first great catch of fish was too much for one ship, so another ship was pressed into service, although even it proved inadequate to contain the catch of fish. In this second ship is shown in a mystery of the organization of the church, with it's bishops who are equal brothers, and rightly divide the word of truth. In the latter case, only one ship, with the seven Apostles, was able to fulfill the word of the Lord, and land all the fish. Here we see in an even more powerful way the church, and the infinite resources those within it have to fulfill the commandments, and contain all the fish, that is, souls, who are caught in the nets of the gospel.

After the other disciples landed their boats, and Peter pulled the net full of great fishes to land in obedience to the Lord's command (for all that is done in the church is in obedience to Christ), the Lord invited them to "Come and dine".

All the apostles knew it was the Lord, and were filled with unspeakable joy.

After the meal, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him, and restored his faith fully. There is a deep mystery in this, which we will only understand if we live the Christian life, and experience forgiveness and knowledge, as did Peter.

Didn't you just hate it when a particularly impossible math problem was left "as an exercise to the reader" in your math textbook? Hopefully you will not mind it so much now. The answer to this question is left to, as was usually said in those snotty textbooks, as an exercise to the attentive reader. Hopefully you will do better on this question than I did on those math questions.

A few hints since I am not a math professor:

  • Eleven disciples are afraid, then made glad.
  • One works then takes a rest.
  • Two women.
  • Two young men.
  • One disciple's faith is restored.
  • The young one is faster than the old one.
  • She now has more things to treasure in her heart.
  • Their hearts burned within them.
  • Gabriel is asked to repeat an important labor.
  • One makes a mistake, then her weeping in turned into joy.
  • No, this is not in order!
Answers to Questions about Thomas Sunday


St Thomas Sunday is the Second Sunday of Pascha, or, said another way, the first Sunday after the Sunday of Pascha.

The Gospel text for the day gives a clue as to why the celebration is at this time:

"Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you." (John 20:19)

"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." (John 20:24-26)

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. ... " (John 20:27)

On the Sunday of St. Thomas, the Resurrectional Evlogitaria sung before the Hymns of Ascent (which precede the Gospel, and is immediately after either the Polyeleos or 118th psalm in normal times) are not sung, and neither is the "Magnificat" ("My soul magnifies the Lord...", which is usually sung between the eighth and ninth ode of the matins canon. These hymns are omitted because the feast of St. Thomas Sunday is a "Feast of the Lord", and it supersedes EVERYTHING from the normal Resurrectional service, just as Nativity, or another feast of the Lord would.


"Having beheld the resurrection" (certainly very familiar to everyone who has sung the Paschal Hours in lieu of morning prayers during Bright week, since it is also sung three times then), is normally sung once in Sunday matins, just after the Gospel is read. During the Paschal season, until and including the Sunday preceding Ascension Thursday, it is sung three times.


According to the Gospel of St. John, Jesus appeared unto the Apostles the first time on the evening of Pascha, with Thomas being absent, then the second time eight days later, with him being present. He originally did not believe because of the incredible reality of the resurrection. He needed to see the evidence.


The church characterizes St. Thomas' unbelief as "good", because it led to a greater manifestation of the reality of Christ's resurrection in the flesh:

"As the disciples were in doubt, / the Savior came on the eighth day / to where they were gathered and granted them peace, / and cried unto Thomas: / Come, O Apostle, and feel the palms in which they fastened the nails. / O good unbelief of Thomas, / which hath led the hearts of the faithful to knowledge! / Hence, he cried out with fear: // O my Lord and my God, glory be to Thee." (Sticheron from Lord I have cried, vespers for St. Thomas Sunday)


Just before Jesus went to Bethany to raise Lazarus, which preceded His passion week by only a little, St. John recounts in his Gospel:

"Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him." (John 11:16).

This sentiment was also expressed by the Holy Apostle Peter during the passion week:

"Simon Peter said unto him, Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered him, Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow me afterwards. Peter said unto him, Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake. Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice." (John 13:36-38)

St. John Chrysostom also states quite clearly the magnificent transformation of Thomas, and his great courage:

'Now they all feared the attacks of the Jews, but Thomas above the rest; wherefore also he said, "Let us go, that we also may die with Him." Some say that he desired himself to die; but it is not so; the expression is rather one of cowardice. Yet he was not rebuked, for Christ as yet supported his weakness, but afterwards he became stronger than all, and invincible. (6) For the wonderful thing is this: that we see one who was so weak before the Crucifixion, become after the Crucifixion and after having believed in the Resurrection, more zealous than any. So great was the power of Christ. The very man who dared not go in company with Christ to Bethany, the same while not seeing Christ ran (7) well nigh through the inhabited world, and dwelt in the midst of nations that were full of murder, and desirous to kill him.' (St. John Chrysostom, sermon on St. John's Gospel, verse 21:12)


An Old Believer Sermon, based mostly on the writings of St. John Chrysostom and Blessed Archbishop Theofylact of Bulgaria, among others, explains that the expression "My Lord and my God" indicates the dual nature of Christ. As a man, He is called Lord, as an earthly king might be, and also is God.

The Aposticha for the Vespers service echoes this idea:

"O strange wonder, / unbelief hath given birth unto steadfast faith! / For Thomas said: / Unless I see, I shall not believe. / And when he touched the side of Christ, / he spake with divine authority / concerning the Incarnate One Who is the very Son of God, / and recognized Him as the One Who suffered in the flesh. / He proclaimed the Risen God, and cried with a radiant voice: // O my Lord and my God, glory be to Thee".

When Thomas proclaimed "My Lord and My God", he was saying something wholly unique, never said before. This was the first time Jesus was explicitly called God by one of His disciples.


Jesus appeared to all the apostles save Thomas on the evening of the day of the Resurrection - Sunday evening. He did not appear again unto them until eight days later, when Thomas was with them.

"Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst ... But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 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..." (John 20:19a, 24,26a)


Jesus gave the apostles, and those whom they would appoint, and their successors, down through the ages, the authority to bind and loose sins. A priest (or bishop, of course), usually exercises this authority and responsibility in the sacrament of confession.

"Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. ... Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." (John 20:19,21-23)


The Holy Apostle Thomas spread the gospel to India, where he courageously met his end, being run through with five lances.


On the day of Pascha, a portion of the story of the doubting of Thomas is read during Vespers. This Gospel is usually read in many languages, often in three short sections. The next week, on St. Thomas Sunday, the entire selection read during vespers is read again, and the story is finished, during the Divine Liturgy. This is the only time when a part of a gospel is read one week, then the reading is completed the next week. It is also not common to read a gospel selection in daily vespers.

Gleanings from the Fathers

The Personal Meaning of the Resurrection

"When you hear that at that time the Lord freed the souls from hell and the regions of darkness and that He descended into hell and did an amazing work, do not think that this does not have any personal meaning for you. Man, indeed, can readily accept the evil one. Death has its grip on the children of Adam and their thoughts are imprisoned in darkness. And when you hear mention made of tombs, do not at once think only of visible ones. For your heart is a tomb and a sepulcher. When the prince of evil and his angels have built their nest there and have built roads and highways on which the powers of Satan walk about inside your mind and in your thoughts, then really, are you not a hell and a sepulcher and a tomb dead to God? ... But the Lord descends into the souls of those who seek Him. He goes into the depths of the hellish heart and there He commands death, saying, "Release those captive souls that seek after me, those that you hold by force in bondage." He breaks through the heavy stones that cover the soul. He opens the tombs. He truly raises to life the dead person and leads that captive soul forth out of the dark prison."

St. Macarius, Homily 13. 11

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