Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saint Thomas's Sunday

For all churches that follow the standard lectionary, the Gospel reading for the second Sunday of Easter is John 20: 19-29, the story of Thomas’s doubt and belief. And St. Thomas’s Sunday is not complete without singing O Filii et Filiae, or O Sons and Daughters Let Us Sing--a hauntingly beautiful fifteenth-century Latin hymn by Jean Tisserand, translated into English by John Mason Neale:

O sons and daughters, let us sing!
The King of Heaven, the glorious King,
Over death today rose triumphing.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

That Easter morn, at break of day,
The faithful women went their way
To seek the tomb where Jesus lay.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

An angel clad in white they see,
Who sat, and spake unto the three,
“Your Lord doth go to Galilee.”
Alleluia! Alleluia!

That night th’apostles met in fear;
Amidst them came their Lord most dear,
And said, “My peace be on all here.”
Alleluia! Alleluia!

When Thomas first the tidings heard,
How they had seen the risen Lord,
He doubted the disciples’ word.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

“My piercèd side, O Thomas, see;
My hands, My feet, I show to thee;
Not faithless but believing be.”
Alleluia! Alleluia!

No longer Thomas then denied;
He saw the feet, the hands, the side;
“Thou art my Lord and God,” he cried.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

How blessed are they who have not seen,
And yet whose faith has constant been;
For they eternal life shall win.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

On this most holy day of days
Our hearts and voices, Lord, we raise
To Thee, in jubilee and praise.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

For me, who was raised an agnostic, but came to shaky faith after marrying a believer, the story of Thomas is special. While homilists often give Thomas a hard time for his doubt, Jesus’ words to him are loving. After all, the other disciples had seen Jesus appear in the locked room. Thomas is honest enough to express his doubts openly.

While my work schedule, prevents me from attending church in my own Episcopal denomination, I try to go to Saturday afternoon vigil Mass at the nearby Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church in Bloomington. I don’t receive Communion, as the Catholic Church has closed Communion, but I do receive a blessing.

I'm often so exhausted after the Saturday morning shift that I don't make it to church. But I make every effort to attend church on St. Thomas's Sunday. Holy Trinity didn't disappoint me today. We sang O Filii et Filiae.


bart said...

thomas has always been a sort of role model for me in a strange way... by daring to enquire "givens" and not accepting cut-and-dried answers, one finds new dimensions in both the public and personal worlds we all inhabit...

keep well...

Charles Gramlich said...

I always appreciated the story of Thomas and was just watching a documentary that mentioned him the other day.

steve said...

Bart--pretty profound. Thank you for commenting.

Charles--I'm glad the story resonates with you. I didn't get into the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, which may be a reworking of an earlier gospel, or the bizarre Acts of Thomas, where the Apostle goes to India and persuades a newly-married couple they shouldn't have sex. Both those bookx ar non-canonical

Julie at Virtual Voyage said...

Lovely hymn. I've not come across the words to this before...thanks for posting, and glad you had a good day.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your meditation, Bart. I was deeply touched when we sang that Hymn on Sunday. Like you and Thomas, I also have had doubts. I find the story comforting. The Lord responds by inviting us to examine His wounds. Such vulnerability, tenderness and love allows us to share Thomas' declaration: "My Lord and my God!"

steve said...

Anonymous--Thank you--Beautifully stated. (I'm Steve, by the way--Bart was the first to comment.)

steve said...

Julie--Always appreciate hearing from you. Beecause it's reallly a chant, you're more likely to hear it in Roman Catholic and Anglo-Catholic churches.