In the East, we call the second Pascal Sunday (the seventh day after Easter) Thomas Sunday, Sunday of St. Thomas or Antipascha (The “antithesis” of the Octave of Easter). The eighth day after Easter is also commonly known as Divine Mercy Sunday, particularly since St. Faustyna (St. Faustina) shared her private revelations about Christ’s mercy with the world.
Poor St. Thomas. Most of the time I hear people refer to this Apostle, its as “Doubting Thomas.” Hardly a title that makes you feel like this is someone who is going to guide you closer to God! In fact, the year I joined the church, I wasn’t at all interested in devotion to the saint who had to see to believe. Thankfully, I’ve come a long way since then and have learned a lot more about St. Thomas.
As an apostle, St. Thomas is known for spreading Christianity to India. Of all the apostles, he travelled the farthest in order to spread the Gospel. Now that takes faith and dedication.
In the East, St. Thomas’ moment of doubt is expressed differently than in the West. Icons of St. Thomas meeting Jesus after the resurrection are not labelled “Doubting Thomas” but rather “The Touching of Thomas.” Some icons are even called “The Belief of Thomas.” This change in language expresses a deeper intimacy with God. Indeed, St. Thomas’ response to our Lord is the beautiful prayer and exclamation: “My Lord and My God!” Following Saint Thomas’ example, I often use this prayer when/after receiving the Eucharist.
“Thomas touched Your life-giving side with an eager hand, O Christ God, When You came to Your apostles through closed doors. He cried out to You: You are my Lord and my God!”
This is the Kontakion for Thomas Sunday in the East. From this we get an image of Thomas’ joy upon realizing the truth of the resurrection. This verse also name’s Christ side as “life-giving.” While we often refer to Christ as the giver of life, this Sunday we meditate on how the Church is born from Christ’s side as Eve came from Adam’s side (rib). The fruit of the suffering of Christ in His Passion is not death, but new life in the resurrection.
Both Roman Catholics and Byzantine Catholics read about Thomas’ experience of the resurrected Christ on this Sunday.
Divine Mercy and St. Thomas
The second Sunday of Easter is also called Divine Mercy Sunday. On Resurrection Sunday we celebrate the new life we have been given in Christ. This week we remember Christ’s mercy. Though we often sin and fall short of the glory of God, Christ reminds us that He is always ready to forgive us. In the West, the readings for this Sunday also reflect upon the sacrament of penance, or Confession. In the East, we learn to trust in the mercy of God through the example of St. Thomas.
In the gospel reading, Thomas moves from doubt to total trust and belief in God. This reading calls us to also place our total trust in God. When Christ offered his wounds for Thomas to touch, the first wound offered was His side.This is why icons of St. Thomas touching the wounds of Jesus depict him feeling the side of Christ. (And why we refer to Jesus’ life-giving side in the Liturgy on Thomas Sunday). In the Divine Mercy image, we see the blood and water gushing forth from Jesus’ side. These images reflect one of the opening prayers of the Divine Mercy chaplet: O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the heart of Jesus as a fountain of mercy for us, I trust in you. (The blood and water which came out of Jesus’ side is attributed to the spear piercing His heart).
This Sunday, let us join St. Thomas in a movement towards total trust in God’s mercy. Approach Jesus in the sacraments and in prayer with the words “My Lord and My God” and “Jesus, I trust in You.”
Divine Mercy Devotion
I have talked about the Divine Mercy Chaplet as being a a very Byzantine western practice in an article before. While St. Faustina was Roman Catholic, she was also Polish. The Divine Mercy Chaplet includes the Trisagion prayer, only with the addition of the words “and on the whole world.”
There have also been some Byzantine adaptions of the image of Divine Mercy. In fact, my first attempt and doing an icon was a Byzantine style Divine Mercy!
My husband is big into the Divine Mercy devotion. He is a member of the Marian Helpers. And when he proposed to me, he held the ring in front of a small Divine Mercy image card (which I still keep in my wallet). If you have any questions about devotion to the Divine Mercy, The BadgerDad will be happy to respond to your thoughts and questions!
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