(By the grace of God, this icon was painted on a 3’x3′ board, with egg tempera and 24k gold.)
To my Orthodox friends, a blessed “Sunday of Thomas”. Because of our differing calendars, in the Latin church, we heard last week the Gospel of John describing Thomas’ confession of faith in our risen Savior.
I sometimes think it sad that this most blessed occurrence resulted in the term “doubting Thomas”, as though this beloved apostle had been unwilling to follow the Lord in faith.
Thomas was incredulous, not unwilling to believe but needing something more than the words of others to comprehend so amazing an event. I, for one, cannot blame him. “Rising from the dead” is so foreign to our human experience that it seems like only a fool would believe such a thing.
If I did not have the Church, my parents, and a significant subset of my culture believing in this truth, I certainly would want some proof. In fact, even with them, I need something more than their word to fully believe.
I do not demand of the Lord that he appear to me; I’d probably be scared out of my wits if he did. (There is a reason he says, “do not be afraid”, numerous times in the Gospels. He knows fear is our first reaction to an encounter with glory.)
But I do ask him for help in believing. I ask him to help me feel his presence, to know that he is with me in my heart. My mind can present endless questions but I know its limitations in comprehending what goes beyond my senses.
My heart, (i.e. my soul, the center of my being) on the other hand, was made to know and sense things on a different level. But even this “knowing” does not come easily. What faith I have is not of my own creation but a gift asked for and given.
Sadly, I do not ask nearly often enough.
Yet in the painting of this icon, the Lord allowed me to feel his presence. It is the true worship that I wrote of before (click here). As I contemplated how to portray this in image, I knew that our Savior loved Thomas and welcomed the probing of his hand into the wounds.
The Lord Jesus wanted Thomas to believe and therefore gave him what he needed. So too, he longs to give us whatever we need in order to believe.
Over and over, he gives. I am too weak to learn once and forever hold onto the Truth.
I grow tired and restless. My rational mind says it is impossible. The truth becomes stale in my mind because I do not pray as I ought.
Yet he doesn’t give up on me. Rather, he gives me more and more until all I can do is burst into color and form to proclaim it: Christ is risen!
Imperfectly I proclaim it, but with a mustard seed of faith awaiting its fullness to be known in me.
“My Lord and my God!”