Hagiography and Meditations
The Life of St Thomas
The Church announces to us today, in her Office of Lauds, these solemn words:
Fear not: for on the fifth day, our Lord will come to you.
This is the last Feast the Church keeps before the great one of the Nativity of her Lord and Spouse. She interrupts the Greater Ferias in order to pay her tribute of honor to Thomas, the Apostle of Christ, whose glorious martyrdom has consecrated this twenty-first day of December, and has procured for the Christian people a powerful patron that will introduce them to the divine Babe of Bethlehem. To none of the Apostles could this day have been so fittingly assigned as to St. Thomas. It was St. Thomas whom we needed; St. Thomas, whose festal patronage would aid us to believe and hope in that God whom we see not, and who comes to us in silence and humility in order to try our Faith. St. Thomas was once guilty of doubting, when he ought to have believed; and only learned the necessity of Faith by the sad experience of incredulity: he comes then most appropriately to defend us, by the power of his example and prayers, against the temptations which proud human reason might excite within us. Let us pray to him with confidence. In that heaven of Light and Vision, where his repentance and love have placed him, he will intercede for us and gain for us that docility of mind and heart which will enable us to see and recognize Him who is the Expected of Nations and who, though the King of the world, will give no other signs of his majesty than the swaddling clothes and tears of a Babe. But let us first read the Acts of our holy Apostle. The Church has deemed it prudent to give us them in an exceedingly abridged form, which contains only the most reliable facts, gathered from authentic sources; and thus, she excludes all those details which have no historic authority.
Thomas the Apostle, who was also named Didymus, was a Galilean. After he had received the Holy Ghost, he travelled through many provinces, preaching the Gospel of Christ. He taught the principles of Christian faith and practice to the Parthians, Medes, Persians, Hircanians, and Bactrians. He finally went to the Indies, and instructed the inhabitants of those countries in the Christian religion. Up to the last, he gained for himself the esteem of all men by the holiness of his life and teaching, and by the wonderful miracles he wrought. He stirred up, also, in their hearts, the love of Jesus Christ. The King of those parts, a worshipper of idols, was, on the contrary, only the more irritated by all these things. He condemned the Saint to be pierced to death by javelins: which punishment was inflicted at Calamina, and gave Thomas the highest honor of his Apostolate, the crown of martyrdom.
THE GREAT ANTIPHON OF ST. THOMAS
O Thomas! Didymus! who didst merit to see Christ; we beseech thee, by most earnest supplication, help us miserable sinners, lest we be condemned with the ungodly, at the Coming of the Judge.
Summary of the Morrow’s Meditation
We will meditate tomorrow: first, upon the impression which the wounds of Jesus Christ made upon St Thomas; second, the impression which these same wounds ought to make upon us. We will then make the resolution: first, often to look at and lovingly to kiss the crucifix; second, to excite ourselves by the sight of it to zeal for our perfection. We will retain, as our spiritual nose gay, the words of St Thomas: “My Lord and my God!”
Meditation for the Morning
Let us admire and bless the infinite goodness of the Saviour, who is willing, by a special apparition, to show to St Thomas the wounds with which His adorable body was pierced upon the cross. Oh, how greatly does this charity of a God for the salvation of a sinner deserve our adoration and our love.
The Impression which the Wounds of Jesus Christ made upon St Thomas.
First, they cured him of his infidelity. He had been obstinately resolved not to believe un- less he could touch the wounds of the Saviour. Jesus Christ condescends to his weakness, appears to him in the midst of the apostles, shows him His wounds, and invites him to put his finger into them. Behold, Thomas, behold these hands which have cured so many sick and bestowed so many blessings, how they are pierced through and through! Behold these feet which have walked on the sea, and have hastened after so many wandering sheep, how the nails have gone through them! Behold this side opened by the lance, this sanctuary of love and of grace! Thomas has no sooner touched these adorable wounds than his eyes are opened, his voice makes itself to be heard, and he lovingly confesses, not only the resurrection, but also the divinity of Jesus Christ, by those beautiful words: “Thou art my Lord and my God”. Second, these wounds of the Saviour inflame his zeal. In the sacred side of Jesus, where the heart beats with love, he imbibes an ardent love for the Saviour and for His Church. The wounds in the feet inspire him with a marvellous agility which makes him push his conquests farther than any other apostle; from the wounds of the hands he receives the zeal for good works which so greatly honoured his apostolate. There we see him go with in- trepidity and amidst all kinds of perils to evangelise the Parthians, the Medes, the Persians, the Scythians, the Hyrcanians, and even to the uttermost parts of the Indies. Third, the wounds of the Saviour inspire his heart with a thirst for martyrdom. Penetrated with what this good master had suffered for the salvation of man, he rejoices to be shut up in prison, to be thrown into a deep ditch, torn by scourges, and stoned; he triumphs at being made to suffer hunger, thirst, nakedness, fatigues, long journeys. Provided that at the end of his course he finds the martyrdom which the wounds of the Saviour have taught him to love, he is content. In the end, he finds at Calamina, a town in the Indies, that which he had longed for. The king of the country condemns him to death, and the holy apostle expires, his body pierced with ar- rows, happy at heart at bearing the stigmata of the wounds of the Saviour. What a beautiful apostolate, and how truly have the wounds of Jesus Christ been lively sources of grace for St Thomas! What have they done for us up to the present time? Let us profit better by them in future.
The Impression which the Wounds of Jesus Christ ought to make upon us.
If Jesus Christ has willed to preserve on His body, even in heaven and in the Eucharist, His adorable wounds, it is in order to nourish our faith, our confidence, and our love. Let us meditate then upon these sacred wounds. Let us gaze upon them, let us fix our lips on them, and we shall feel our faith becoming more lively, our confidence more entire, our love more ardent. The wounds in the feet will teach us to walk with out being afraid of fatigue, wherever duty calls us, wherever there is good to be done, troubles to console, sinners to bring back, the sick to visit. The wounds in the hands will teach us to say like St Augustine: “Lord, do not despise the work of Thy hands. The wounds which Thou hast in them beg of Thee grace and mercy for me; listen to them and save me”. Lastly, the wound in the sacred side, a true sanctuary of love, of graces, and of benedictions, shall be to me like the mysterious cavity wherein the dove loves to retire in order to be sheltered from the attacks of the bird of prey (can ii:14), that is to say, we shall find a refuge therein against the assaults of the world and of the devil. We shall rest there in safety, lays St Augustine; there we shall derive fruit from our meditations; we shall pray with fervour; there we shall love and we shall sanctify ourselves. O adorable wounds, how dear you are to me! May I learn from Thy example, O my Saviour, always to make a holy use of my hands to do Thy will, of my feet to go whither Thou willest, and of my heart to love Thee, to will all Thou willest and nothing else whatever!
Resolutions and spiritual nosegay as above.