At this time we are fully in mind of the early witnesses of Our Lord’s great event; His Resurrection from the dead. Their witness is so important, they assure us firmly of the Resurrection. After our preparations in Lent, the intensity of Passion Week and the glorious celebration of Pascha, we can be easily left with a sense of deflation on the week following. We may even wonder what it was all about. Unlike Metropolitan Anthony we may not have experienced “the life transforming joy” which was his first encounter with the Risen Christ.
Last Sunday we thought of St Thomas and the great blessing he brought for us. Often, he is regarded as the doubting but for us we regard him as the blessed one. He was hardly more doubting than the others. When the Myrrh- bearing women, whom we remember today, came from the tomb saying they had seen an angel who informed them of Christ's rising, the Apostles did not believe them. They also were full of doubt, but the Myrrh- bearing women were jubilant, they had seen the empty tomb and rushed with excitement to tell the other disciples and Apostles; they believed and were the first witnesses.
Thomas was fortunately absent on the first visitation of Christ so that, by Our Lord’s will, a week later, he could be a great witness for us. He was not prepared to believe until he had seen for himself, but then he was able to make a very definite commitment, saying, “My Lord and my God!” To which Our Lord was able to reply: “You believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen me and yet believe.” This is the blessing for us, by touching the wounded flesh, he cured the world of our disbelief. Through his doubting, and search for truth, he became a firm witness to the reality of the Resurrection.
Surely, all of us have doubts from time to time. It is easy to shout, “Christ is Risen!” but do we really believe this in our hearts so that our life is changed. Thomas saw and touched and said that not only he believed that Jesus, the earthly Jesus was Lord, but he also was able to say, in his heart, “You are also my God, a member of the Holy Trinity. Thomas then went on to be one of the greatest Apostles, travelling all the way to India to establish the Church there. We also should say, “Christ is Risen, my Lord and My God, now my life is to be definitely changed.
We may not like Metropolitan Anthony say that we have received “life transforming joy” which, like him we feel compelled to share with others. (He was awarded an honorary Doctorate by the Presbyterian Faculty of Theology in Aberdeen, “for preaching the word of God and for a revitalising effect on spiritual life in Great Britain”). But we too, if we reflect on our lives, will have had life changing experiences, when we have been certain that the Lord has been there with us. Perhaps we will have been aware of His presence, His guidance, His help when something has worked out better than we expected. Sometimes, others will have made a comment which we knew was from God. Then there are times when His presence in prayer or in the Liturgy seems very real. Many times, if we are careful to note them.
Christ’s resurrection appearances were not always immediately recognised. When the two disciples were on the way to Emmaus. Jesus walked with them several miles and they did not recognise him. Not until, at table, did they see him in the breaking of the bread. Then, they exclaimed, “Did not our hearts burn within us“ as He walked with us. Again, for our instruction. Like St Thomas, Cleopas and Luke, on the road to Emmaus, felt the heart burned within them at the presence of Our Risen Lord.
This is how Our Lord reveals Himself, even if we are no longer able to see Him. Metropolitan Anthony, our founding bishop, as a teenager, was no longer a churchgoer and did not believe. After an inspiring talk by a visiting priest, he decided to read St Mark's Gospel to see if there was any truth in it (he was rather of the opinion that there would not be). As he read, he was aware of another presence in the room, and he knew that this was the presence of the Risen Christ. From that moment his life was changed, he experienced “life-transforming joy” by this experience of Christ. Many have had a similar experience. One of our priests before ordination, had been estranged from the Cathedral for many years. Whilst listening to the broadcast Paschal Liturgy from the Cathedral one year and hiding in a boxroom so that no one would hear, he was suddenly aware of a presence, and knew this to be that of the Risen Christ. He re-joined the Cathedral and in due course was ordained a priest.
I have probably, before, told you of a friend of mine, a doctor. He and his wife did not leave their room in the morning until they were sure in their hearts that Christ was Risen! This could be a good intention for us also. When we say Christ is Risen, we should know in our hearts that this is true, and our lives are changing as a result. When our hearts burn within us, we should say with St Thomas, “My Lord and My God or with St Francis, “My God and my All”.
“Robed in sincere righteousness whiter than snow, let us exult in the Paschal celebration, remembering the day on which Christ, the Sun of Justice, rose. Risen from the dead, He allows us to rejoice in His immortal brightness” (vespers Thursday evening of the week of Thomas) and our lives are changed.
This is our blessing for Christ is Risen indeed.
This mainly contains homilies and messages from our priests, although there is some scope to share thoughts and interesting articles which we may want to share with others