Saint Thomas

st_thomas_apostle

Christian Apostle

Saint Thomas,  (born , probably Galilee—died ad 53, Madras, India; Western feast day December 21, feast day in Roman and Syrian Catholic churches July 3, in the Greek church October 6), one of the Twelve Apostles. His name in Aramaic (Teʾoma) and Greek (Didymos) means “twin”; John 11:16 identifies him as “Thomas, called the Twin.” He is called Judas Thomas (i.e., Judas the Twin) by the Syrians.

Thomas’ character is outlined in The Gospel According to John. His devotion to Jesus is clearly expressed in John 11:5–16: when Jesus planned to return toJudaea, the disciples warned him of the Jews’ animosity (“now seeking to stone you”), to which Thomas soon replied, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” At the Last Supper (John 14:1–7) Thomas could not comprehend what Jesus meant when he said: “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas’ question, “how can we know the way?” caused Jesus to answer, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.”

Perhaps the best-known event in his life is the one from which the phrase “doubting Thomas” developed. In John 20:19–29 he was not among those disciples to whom the risen Christ first appeared, and, when they told the incredulous Thomas, he requested physical proof of the Resurrection, fulfilled when Christ reappeared and specifically asked Thomas to touch his wounds. His sudden realization of truth (“My Lord and my God”) made Thomas the first person to explicitly acknowledge Jesus’ divinity.

Thomas’ subsequent history is uncertain. According to the 4th-centuryEcclesiastical History of Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea, he evangelized Parthia(modern Khorāsān). Later Christian tradition says Thomas extended his apostolate into India, where he is recognized as the founder of the Church of the Syrian Malabar Christians, or Christians of St. Thomas. In the apocryphal Acts of Thomas,originally composed in Syriac, his martyrdom is cited under the king of Mylapore at Madras, where are to be found St. Thomas Mount and San Thomé Cathedral, his traditional burial place. His relics, however, supposedly were taken to the West and finally enshrined at Ortona, Italy. He allegedly visited the court of the Indo-Parthian king Gondophernes, who put him in charge of building a royal palace (the Acts of Thomas states that he was a carpenter); he was imprisoned for spending on charity the money entrusted him.

In addition to the apocryphal works, other similar writings related or accredited to Thomas are the Gospel of Thomas (among the Coptic Gnostic papyri found in 1945 in Upper Egypt), The Book of Thomas the Athlete, and Evangelium Joannis de obitu Mariae (“The Message of John Concerning the Death of Mary”).

Source: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/592851/Saint-Thomas

 

 

Thomas the Apostle

Thomas the Apostle (called Didymus which means “the twin”) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ, according to theNew Testament. He is informally called doubting Thomas because he doubted Jesus’ resurrection when first told, (in the Gospel of John), followed later by his confession of faith, “My Lord and my God”, on seeing Jesus’ wounded body.

Traditionally, he is said to have traveled outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel, traveling as far as India.[2][5][6][7]According to tradition, the Apostle reached MuzirisIndia in AD 52 and baptized several people, founding what today are known asSaint Thomas Christians or Nasranis. After his death, the reputed relics of Saint Thomas the Apostle were enshrined as far asMesopotamia in the 3rd century, and later moved to various places.[citation needed] In 1258, some of the relics were brought toAbruzzo in OrtonaItaly, where they have been held in the Church of Saint Thomas the Apostle.[8] He is often regarded as thePatron Saint of India,[9][10] and the name Thoma remains quite popular among Saint Thomas Christians of India.

Gospel of John[edit]

Thomas first speaks in the Gospel of John. In John 11:16, when Lazarus had recently died, the apostles do not wish to go back toJudea, where some Jews had attempted to stone Jesus. Thomas says: “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (NIV).[11]

He speaks again in John 14:5. There, Jesus had just explained that he was going away to prepare a heavenly home for his followers, and that one day they would join him there. Thomas reacted by saying, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (NIV)

John 20:24-29 tells how doubting Thomas was skeptical at first when he heard that Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to the other apostles, saying, “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.” (v.25) But when Jesus appeared later and invited Thomas to touch his wounds and behold him, Thomas showed his belief by saying, “My Lord and my God”. (v.28) Jesus then said, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed.” (v.29)

Names and etymologies[edit]

The name Thomas is derived from the Aramaic or Classical Syriac: ܬܐܘܡܐ Toma, meaning twin. The equivalent term for twin in Greek is Didymus.

Other names[edit]

The Nag Hammadi copy of the Gospel of Thomas begins: “These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded.” Early Syrian traditions also relate the apostle’s full name as Judas Thomas.[12] Some have seen in theActs of Thomas (written in east Syria in the early 3rd century, or perhaps as early as the first half of the 2nd century) an identification of Saint Thomas with the apostle Judas, brother of James, better known in English as Jude. However, the first sentence of the Acts follows the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles in distinguishing the apostle Thomas and the apostle Judas son of James. Few texts identify Thomas’ twin. In the Book of Thomas the Contender, part of the Nag Hammadi, it is said to be Jesus himself: “Now, since it has been said that you are my twin and true companion, examine yourself…”[13]

Feast days[edit]

When the feast of Saint Thomas was inserted in the Roman calendar in the 9th century, it was assigned to 21 December. TheMartyrology of St. Jerome mentioned the apostle on 3 July, the date to which the Roman celebration was transferred in 1969, so that it would no longer interfere with the major ferial days of Advent.[14] 3 July was the day on which his relics were translated fromMylapore, a place along the coast of the Marina BeachChennai (Madras) in India, to the city of Edessa in Mesopotamia. Traditionalist Roman Catholics (who follow the General Roman Calendar of 1960 or earlier) and many Anglicans (including members of the Episcopal Church as well as members of the Church of England and the Lutheran Church, who worship according to the 1662 edition of the Book of Common Prayer),[15] still celebrate his feast day on 21 December.

The Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches celebrate his feast day on 6 October[16] (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, 6 October currently falls on 19 October of the modern Gregorian Calendar). In addition, the next Sunday of the Easter (Pascha) is celebrated as the Sunday of Thomas, in commemoration of Thomas’ question to Jesus, which led him to proclaim, according to Orthodox teaching, two natures of Jesus, both human and divine. Thomas is commemorated in common with all of the other apostles on 30 June (13 July), in a feast called the Synaxis of the Holy Apostles.[17] He is also associated with the “Arabian” (or “Arapet”) icon of the Theotokos (Mother of God), which is commemorated on 6 September (19 September).[18] The Malankara Orthodox church celebrates his feast on three days, 3 July [19](in memory of the relic translation to Edessa), 18 December (the Day he was lanced) [20] and 21 December (when he passed away) [21]

Later history and traditions[edit]

Assumption of Mary[edit]

St. Thomas receiving the Virgin Mary’s girdle from heaven.

Main article: Dormition of the Theotokos

The Passing of Mary, adjudged heretical by Pope Galasius I in 494, was attributed to Joseph of Arimathea.[22][23] The document states that Thomas was the only witness of the Assumption of Mary into heaven. The other apostles were miraculously transported to Jerusalem to witness her death. Thomas was left in India, but after her first burial, he was transported to her tomb, where he witnessed her bodily assumption into heaven, from which she dropped her girdle. In an inversion of the story of Thomas’ doubts, the other apostles are skeptical of Thomas’ story until they see the empty tomb and the girdle.[24] Thomas’ receipt of the girdle is commonly depicted in medieval and pre-Tridentine Renaissance art,[25][26] the apostle’s infamous doubting reduced to a metaphorical knot in the Bavarian baroque Mary Untier of Knots.

Mission in India[edit]

Main articles: Saint Thomas Christians and Christianity in India

The tomb of St. Thomas the Apostle in MylaporeIndia.

Basilica of St. Thomas in Ortona(Abruzzo), Italy, where are his relics

Thomas is traditionally believed to have sailed to India in AD 52 to spread the Christian faith, and is believed to have landed at the port of Muziris (modern-day North Paravur and Kodungalloor in modern day Kerala state) where there was a Jewish community at the time.[2][5] The port was destroyed in 1341 due to a massive flood that realigned the coasts. He is believed by the St Thomas Christian tradition to have established Ezharappallikal or Seven and half churches in Kerala. These churches are at Kodungallur,PalayoorKottakkavu (Paravur), KokkamangalamNiranam, Nilackal (Chayal), Kollam and Thiruvithamcode (half church).[27]

It was to a land of dark people he was sent, to clothe them by Baptism in white robes. His grateful dawn dispelled India’s painful darkness. It was his mission to espouse India to the One-Begotten. The merchant is blessed for having so great a treasure. Edessa thus became the blessed city by possessing the greatest pearl India could yield. Thomas works miracles inIndia, and at Edessa Thomas is destined to baptize peoples perverse and steeped in darkness, and that in the land of India.

—Hymns of St. Ephrem, edited by Lamy (Ephr. Hymni et Sermones, IV).

Eusebius of Caesarea quotes Origen (died mid-3rd century) as having stated that Thomas was the apostle to the Parthians, but Thomas is better known as the missionary to India through the Acts of Thomas, perhaps written as late as c. 200. In Edessa, where his remains were venerated, the poet St. Ephrem (died 373) wrote a hymn in which the Devil cries,

… Into what land shall I fly from the just?

I stirred up Death the Apostles to slay, that by their death I might escape their blows.
But harder still am I now stricken: the Apostle I slew in India has overtaken me in Edessa; here and there he is all himself.
There went I, and there was he: here and there to my grief I find him.

—quoted in Medlycott 1905, ch. ii.

St. Ephrem, a doctor of Syriac Christianity, writes in the forty-second of his “Carmina Nisibina” that the Apostle was put to death in India, and that his remains were subsequently buried in Edessa, brought there by an unnamed merchant.[28]

A Syrian ecclesiastical calendar of an early date confirms the above and gives the merchant a name. The entry reads: “3 July, St. Thomas who was pierced with a lance in ‘India’. His body is in Urhai (Edessa) having been brought there by the merchant Khabin. A great festival.”

A long public tradition in Edessa honoring Thomas as the “Apostle of India” resulted in several surviving hymns, that are attributed to Ephrem, copied in codices of the 8th and 9th centuries. References in the hymns preserve the tradition that Thomas’ bones were brought from India to Edessa by a merchant, and that the relics worked miracles both in India and Edessa. A pontiff assigned his feast day and a king and a queen erected his shrine. The Thomas traditions became embodied in Syriac liturgy, thus they were universally credited by the Christian community there. There is a legend that Thomas had met the biblical Magi on his way to India.

According to Eusebius’ record, Thomas and Bartholomew were assigned to Parthia and India.[29][30] The Didascalia (dating from the end of the 3rd century) states, “India and all countries condering it, even to the farthest seas… received the apostolic ordinances from Judas Thomas, who was a guide and ruler in the church which he built.” Moreover, there is a wealth of confirmatory information in the Syriac writings, liturgical books, and calendars of the Church of the East, not to mention the writings of the Fathers, the calendars, the sacramentaries, and the martyrologies of the Roman, Greek and Ethiopian churches.[2]

An early 3rd-century Syriac work known as the Acts of Thomas[3] connects the apostle’s Indian ministry with two kings, one in the north and the other in the south. According to one of the legends in the Acts, Thomas was at first reluctant to accept this mission, but the Lord appeared to him in a night vision and said,

“Fear not, Thomas. Go away to India and proclaim the Word, for my grace shall be with you.” But the Apostle still demurred, so the Lord overruled the stubborn disciple by ordering circumstances so compelling that he was forced to accompany an ‘Indian’ merchant, Abbanes, as a slave to his native place in northwest ‘India’, where he found himself in the service of the Indo-Parthian king, Gondophares. According to the Acts of Thomas, the apostle’s ministry resulted in many conversions throughout the kingdom, including the king and his brother.[4]

Remains of some of his buildings, influenced by Greek architecture, indicate that he was a great builder. According to the legend, Thomas was a skilled carpenter and was bidden to build a palace for the king. However, the Apostle decided to teach the king a lesson by devoting the royal grant to acts of charity and thereby laying up treasure for the heavenly abode. Although little is known of the immediate growth of the church, Bar-Daisan (154–223) reports that in his time there were Christian tribes in India which claimed to have been converted by Thomas and to have books and relics to prove it.[5] But at least by the year of the establishment of the Second Persian Empire (226), there were bishops of the Church of the East in northwest India (Afghanistan and Baluchistan), with laymen and clergy alike engaging in missionary activity.[6]

It is most significant that, aside from a small remnant of the Church of the East in Kurdistan, the only other church to maintain a distinctive identity is the Saint Thomas Christian congregations along the Malabar Coast (modern-day Kerala) in southwest India. According to the most ancient tradition of this church, Thomas evangelized this area and then crossed to the Coromandel Coast of southeast India, where, after carrying out a second mission, he died near Madras. Throughout the period under review, the church in India was under the jurisdiction of Edessa, which was then under the Mesopotamian patriarchate at Seleucia-Ctesiphon and later at Baghdad and Mosul. Historian Vincent A. Smith says, “It must be admitted that a personal visit of the Apostle Thomas to South India was easily feasible in the traditional belief that he came by way of Socotra, where an ancient Christian settlement undoubtedly existed. I am now satisfied that the Christian church of South India is extremely ancient…”.[7]

Thomas is believed to have left northwest India when invasion threatened and traveled by vessel to the Malabar coast, possibly visiting southeast Arabia and Socotra en route, and landing at the former flourishing port of Muziris (modern-day North Paravur and Kodungalloor)[27]near Cochin (c. 51–52 AD) in the company of a Jewish merchant Abbanes (Hebban). From there he is said to have preached the gospel throughout the Malabar coast. The various churches he founded were located mainly on the Periyar River and its tributaries and along the coast, where there were Jewish colonies. He reputedly preached to all classes of people and had about 17,000 converts, including members of the four principal castes. Later, stone crosses were erected at the places where churches were founded, and they became pilgrimage centres. In accordance with apostolic custom, Thomas ordained teachers and leaders or elders, who were reported to be the earliest ministry of the Malabar Church.

Martyrdom of St. Thomas by Peter Paul Rubens

Death[edit]

According to tradition,[31] St. Thomas was killed in 72 AD. Nasrani Churches from Kerala in South IndiaTamil Nadu claim that St. Thomas was martyred at Mylapore near Chennai in India and his body was interred there. St. Ephrem the Syrian (306 – 373) states that the Apostle was martyred in India, and that his relics were taken then to Edessa. This is the earliest known record of his martyrdom.[32]

Some Patristic literature state that St. Thomas died a martyr, in east of Persia or in North India[33]:237 by the wounds of the four spears pierced into his body by the local soldiers.[34]:217 Some modern scholars like Glenn W Most infer Saint Clement of Alexandria‘s quotation[35] of Gnostic Heracleonto mean that St. Thomas died a natural death in Edessa.[34] :218

The accounts of Marco Polo from the 13th century state that the Apostle had an accidental death outside his hermitage in Chennai by a badly aimed arrow of a fowler who not seeing the saint shot at peacocks there.[33]:238 Later in the 16th century, the Portuguese in India is said to have created a myth that St. Thomas was killed in Chennai by stoning and lance thrust by local priests, based on the incorrect interpretation of inscriptions found on the Pehlvi Cross discovered at St. Thomas Mount in 1547. Later decipherments of the inscriptions by experts proved this to be false.[33]:239 Since at least the 16th century, the St. Thomas Mount has been a common site revered by Hindus, Muslims and Christians.[33]:31 The records of Barbosa from early 16th century inform that the tomb was then maintained by a Muslim who kept a lamp burning there.[33]:237 The San Thome Basilica presently located at the tomb was first built in the 16th century and rebuilt in the 19th.[36]

Relics[edit]

Mylapore[edit]

Few relics are still kept in the church at Mylapore, Tamil Nadu, India. Marco Polo, the Venetian traveller and author of Description of the World, popularly known as Il Milione, is reputed to have visited Southern India in 1288 and 1292. The first date has been rejected as he was in China at the time, but the second date is accepted by many historians.[citation needed] He is believed to have stopped in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), where he documented the tomb of Adam. He also stopped at Quilon (Kollam) on the western Malabar coast of India, where he met Syrian Christians and recorded their tradition of St. Thomas and his tomb on the eastern Coromandel coast of the country. Il Milione,the book he dictated on his return to Europe, was on its publication condemned by the Church as a collection of impious and improbable traveller’s tales. It became very popular reading in medieval Europe and inspired Spanish and Portuguese sailors to seek out the fabulous (and possibly Christian) India described in it.

Edessa[edit]

According to tradition, in 232 AD, the greater portion of relics of the Apostle Thomas are said to have been sent by an Indian king and brought from India to the city of Edessa, Mesopotamia, on which occasion his Syriac Acts were written.

The Indian king is named as “Mazdai” in Syriac sources, “Misdeos” and “Misdeus” in Greek and Latin sources respectively, which has been connected to the “Bazdeo” on the Kushan coinage of Vasudeva I, the transition between “M” and “B” being a current one in Classical sources for Indian names.[37] The martyrologist Rabban Sliba dedicated a special day to both the Indian king, his family, and St Thomas.

In the 4th century, the martyrium erected over his burial place brought pilgrims to Edessa. In the 380s, Egeria described her visit in a letter she sent to her community of nuns at home (Itineraria Egeriae):[38]

we arrived at Edessa in the Name of Christ our God, and, on our arrival, we straightway repaired to the church and memorial of saint Thomas. There, according to custom, prayers were made and the other things that were customary in the holy places were done; we read also some things concerning saint Thomas himself. The church there is very great, very beautiful and of new construction, well worthy to be the house of God, and as there was much that I desired to see, it was necessary for me to make a three days’ stay there.

In 441, the Magister militum per Orientem Anatolius donated a silver coffin to hold the relics.[39]

Coronatio Thomae apostoli et Misdeus rex Indiae, Johannes eus filius huisque mater Tertia (“Coronation of Thomas the Apostle, and Misdeus king of India, together with his son Johannes (thought to be a latinization of Vizan) and his mother Tertia”) Rabban Sliba[37]

[clarification needed] In 522 AD, Cosmas Indicopleustes (called the Alexandrian) visited the Malabar Coast. He is the first traveller who mentions Syrian Christians in Malabar, in his book Christian Topography. He mentions that in the town of “Kalliana” (Quilon or Kollam) there was a bishop who had been consecrated in Persia. Historian Aprem Mookenwrites, “Most church historians, who doubt the tradition of the doubting Thomas in India, will admit there was a church in India in the middle of the sixth century when Cosmas Indicopleustes visited India.”[40]

[clarification needed] King Vira Raghavaa gave a copper plate recording a grant given to Iravi Korttan, a Christian of Kodungallur (Anglicised to “Cranganore”), with the date estimated at around 744 AD.[citation needed] In AD 822 two Nestorian Persian Bishops, Mar Sabor and Mar Proth, came to Malabar to occupy their seats in Kollam and Kodungallur, to care for the local Syrian Christians (also known as St. Thomas Christians).[citation needed]

In 1144, the city was conquered by the Zengids and the shrine destroyed.[39]

 

Chios and Ortona[edit]

Tomb of Thomas in the Cathedral of Ortona(Abruzzo)

After a short stay on the Greek island of Chios,[clarification needed] on 6 September 1258 the relics were transported to the West, and now rest in OrtonaAbruzzo, Italy, on the Cathedral of St. Thomas the Apostle. However, the skull of Thomas is said to be atMonastery of Saint John the Theologian on the Greek island of Patmos.[41]

 

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