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. And when He had so said, He shewed unto them His hands and His side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. 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 Spirit: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained. 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 (John 20:19-31).
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!
Christ is Risen!
We have gotten used to meeting one another with the main greeting in our lives: “Christ is Risen!” But what is the meaning of the Resurrection for each one of us? Obviously, it is the center of our Christian confession, because the essence of our faith lies in the fact that Christ is risen. All of church doctrine and Holy Tradition speaks of this. The Apostle Paul says that if Christ is not risen, then we are the most miserable people on earth, because then our faith is entirely meaningless.
For people who live outside the Church – and there are many such people in our country [Russia] – the most important day is New Year’s. Something happens on New Year’s Eve: the New Year arrives and perhaps brings something new with it… But for us the New Year is Pascha. This is indeed the beginning of a new year, a foretaste of the life of the age to come. For us, this day is the fulfillment of our Lenten labors, of our repentance, and of whatever we should have corrected and changed.
The joy and light of this day can long fill every one of us with the truly vital forces we so lack. Suddenly everything falls into place. Life has seemingly not changed – the same things happen – but suddenly everything becomes so clear, understandable, and easy. Certain problems that we had not known how to resolve, and had tortured us, suddenly stop worrying us so much. We still do not know how to resolve them, but for some reason we suddenly calm down. There are things that are unsolvable, and remain unsolvable, but in these days God’s presence in our life completely covers all the insolvability, despondency, and dead ends of our life.
But this is not yet all. This is not the most important thing that Christ’s luminous Resurrection shows us. Something should happen to us in these days that would make this known not only to ourselves, but to those around us. The tidings that Christ is risen cannot concern ourselves only. They cannot be only our little private matter, a joy for our parish or even our Church only. This is something bigger, something global. If Christ is risen, then our life should change on its own – and not only our life. Of course, our life should change first of all, but from every Great Lent, from every Pascha, our life should change so much that it affects someone, touches someone, truly surprise someone, enlightening him and compelling him to turn in our direction. The fruits of our labor and our great joy should extend to the world.
Here is today’s Gospel of Christ: He comes to His disciples, as He came to us, and shows Himself to them in the fullness of His divine-human Resurrection, which they did not know before His Resurrection. He sits down with them, drinks wine, and eats fish and bread, showing them that He is not a spirit, but truly the God-Man, Who possesses eternal life. The joy of the Resurrection so grips the disciples that they are indeed ready to share it with others.
Thomas, who had not been with them, arrives. They say: “Christ is Risen!” And for some reason he does not believe… For some reason the word that Christ is risen does not mean anything to Thomas, who had known Christ as well as the other Apostles…
But we recall that not long ago, just a week before, these very same Apostles fled from Christ’s Cross and did not follow Him to the end. Nonetheless, Christ comes to them. He comforts them and gives them the Holy Spirit and the power to remit sins. They receive the signs of their priesthood, the first signs of true apostleship.
Then nothing happens. The Apostle Thomas will not believe what the Apostles are saying “until I myself make sure and see.” Indeed, if Christ is risen, then why are you sitting in the upper room behind closed doors, hiding for fear of the Jews? Why has nothing happened to you? Why are you still the same? Why, if Christ is risen, have you not become different?
We often perceive Christ’s Resurrection as something only joyful. Everything bad has gone away and only the good remains. Yes, joy. Yes, happiness. Yes, good cheer. Christ is Risen! Look at how good everything is! Does that mean that nothing terrible has happened?
But Thomas remembers. He knows how terrible this world is, how this world crucified Christ, how this world is also ready to crucify anyone else who follows Christ. The Apostles also remember this, which is why there are sitting behind closed doors. Our testimony about Christ means nothing to the world because nothing has happened to us; because, knowing the truth that Christ is risen, we continue to live according to the laws and elements of this world and to fear with the fear of this world, relying on this world’s foundations rather than on Christ. Then our testimony about Christ will not be taken seriously as a truth that we cherish, since along with this truth we also have other equally immutable truths on which we actually base our lives. And these truths testify to who we are.
For the sake of Thomas, Christ again comes to the disciples and tells him: “Put your fingers in My wounds.” Then Thomas sees the truth of the Resurrection in his own personal experience. Christ and His disciples show the ultimate meaning of His Resurrection: Christ is risen, but His wounds remain. Christ is risen, but His hands are pierced. Christ is risen, but there is a gaping wound in His side. Again He speaks these words to them: “Go, I send you.”
Where is He sending His disciples? To what is He sending His disciples? He is sending them on the very same path of the cross. He is sending them to follow Him. He is sending them to attain the same Resurrection, the same Pascha – and in the same way He did, through Golgotha. So if we, like the Apostle Thomas, accept Christ’s wounds along with His Resurrection; if we accept this pierced side with joy, then, I think, our word about Christ’s Resurrection, our word about life in Christ, will immediately take on both truth and power.
The Lord shows the Apostle Thomas His perforated hands and His pierced side, and we can no longer think that nothing has happened. We know that Christ is risen and we believe that He will never leave us. But the path onto which He is sending us is the same path by which a disciple follows His Teacher to the end. We know from the Acts of the Holy Apostles and the history of our Church what this apostolic path is, and we know how the Apostles proclaimed Christ by their life, their death, and their resurrection. Amen.