The twelve feasts of the Lord — The Resurrection of Christ
Holy Apostle Thomas Sunday
by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos
The Apostle Thomas was absent when Christ first appeared to the Disciples. Yet he too was granted this manifestation and revelation after eight days, that is to say, on the following Sunday (Jn. 20, 24-29).
According to St. Gregory Palamas, Christ was manifested to all the Disciples gathered together, Thomas, however, could not see Him because he was absent. But when he was among the Disciples on the following Sunday, Thomas too was granted this great experience. This is why he advises us not to be absent from the Sunday meetings, because if we do we will suffer as Thomas did.
However, there is also a deeper reason why Thomas was not granted to see Christ the first day. In the interpretation of St. Theophylactos, Thomas was hesitant and considered Christ’s resurrection impossible. He had not reached the inner spiritual [noetic] condition necessary for seeing the Risen Christ. We have stated already that Christ was manifested to those who were in a state for it to have a saving, not a punishing effect. Thomas seems not to have reached the spiritual maturity required by this event.
Christ postponed His appearance for a whole week for the sake of Thomas’s spiritual readiness. Christ delayed visiting him so long, “so that he might be taught by his fellow disciples and on hearing these things he might also have a more burning desire, and be more trusting towards what was to be in the future” (St. Theophylactos). A whole week, then, was needed for him to be taught the facts of Christ’s manifestation by the other Disciples, in order to learn the facts of His manifestation, and for a great longing to develop, and also to express repentance for his lack of Faith, so that Christ’s manifestation might effect salvation.
When Thomas was suitably prepared, he too became a theologian through the manifestation of Christ and confessed: “My Lord and my God” (Jn. 20, 29). These words show his certainty about the two natures of Christ and the one hypostasis, since “Lord” indicates the human nature, and “God” the divine nature, and these two are united in the Risen Christ (St. Theophylactos).
So Thomas was not an unbeliever in the sense of an atheist, but unbelieving in the sense that he was not in a condition to accept the faith through vision of God. For a long time his faith was based on what he heard, only later he reached [noetically] faith through the vision [theoria] of God. There is a clear difference between the atheist, an enemy of God, and the doubter or incredulous person in the sense that his faith depends on what he [rationally] hears, not on vision of God.