St Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
161 N. Murphy Ave. Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Thomas Sunday

Thomas Sunday

            We have come to the first Sunday after the glorious feast of Pascha. After going through over 40 days of lenten struggle we have come to the bright feast and 40 days of feasting. This first Sunday is the Sunday of Thomas. In the west, he is known as doubting Thomas, and yet that name for him is not what the ancient Church believed. Yes, at first he did doubt the resurrection of Christ, and asked for proof of Christ's resurrection. However, he was the only one in all the Gospels who refers to Christ God directly, by saying: "My Lord, and my God". In the Orthodox Church icons depicting Thomas seeing the resurrection of Christ have the inscription of: "The belief of Thomas". The Orthodox Church actually focuses on his belief, the positive part and not on the negative part.

            Similarly to this, we see that Christ had suffered for three days in Holy Week. He suffered on Holy Wednesday, when Judas had betrayed him, he suffered on Holy Thursday when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane, and he suffered on the Cross on Holy Friday. However, he rose from the dead, and now we celebrate for 40 days. We do not focus on the sufferings of Christ but rather we focus on how his resurrection brings up joy and light! Again, the focus is on the positive and not on the negative.

            So this past year has had many negative things about it. Last year, on Holy Pascha, many had to watch the service from home on TV. While it was a blessing that we could still have services, watching the services in our homes could not bring that same fulfilment that coming to Church would bring. In a sense looking back, we might want to focus on the negative, how horrible it was, and all the difficulties that we went through. And yet, we should not look at the negative aspect of the past, but rather the positive blessings we have received from God! Look at all we have received. About 3 weeks before Pascha, we received the amazing news that our Churches would be completely open. God, in His providence, had brought upon us this blessing through our faith and prayer. Imagine if Pascha was earlier, like western easter, we would not have been able to gather together like we did. Our Church also had a great blessing since we also had a full Church of people. What a truly blessed day we had all experienced!

            So beloved in the Lord, now that our Churches are opened, and God willing the past year is behind us, let us look to the future with a positive attitude. The Apostle Thomas, together with the other Apostles, saw the risen Christ. And when they did, they were all transformed, changed, and became new people. Christ forgave them for their unbelief - especially Peter for denying him thrice. He did not focus on the negativity of the sin they committed, but rather He focused on the positivity of forgiveness and the great and mighty works the Apostles did after Christ rose from the dead. Let us too not live in the negativity of the past, but rather embrace the positivity of the resurrection of Christ.

            Elder Paisios spoke how we should have positive thoughts, and not live in negativity. Since we have passed through Holy Week and Pascha, now this quote really should resonate with us. Elder Paisios speaks the following: “We must have positive thoughts, otherwise none of the spiritual fathers- not even the saints- can help us. When Jesus was on the Cross and all the terrible events were taking place, two thieves were also being crucified with Him. Each one of them had a different attitude towards Him, even though they were both placed next to the same God; a God who had never been blamed for or accused by anyone for the slightest sin. On the contrary, many people were benefited by Him: some were cured of a specific disease, others had been resurrected and all these miracles took place in public. Now, even nature was reacting against the injustice done to Him.

          The thief placed on the left cross had created inside his mind a “factory”, which produced only negative thoughts. “…One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us’.” (Lk 23:39). Although he could see what was going on around him, he never questioned himself about it. The one on the right, who had a positive way of thinking, reacted as follows: “But the other rebuked him saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’.” (Lk 23:40-42). Both thieves had the same almighty God placed between them who could help them. The negative thinking of the one on the left prevented God from helping him, whereas the one on the right- who had committed terrible crimes and was legitimately being punished- was able to “move” Jesus with his positive attitude. And He said to him: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Lk 23:43). We should keep in mind that God “cannot” help us, even if He really wants to, unless we acquire a positive way of thinking. Concerning the spiritual progress of a disciple monk, it is more important for him to develop good thoughts than to be guided by a spiritual father who is considered a living saint…”

            We should be so joyful that we have such a great faith where we can say Christ is Risen! And know that we have everlasting life awaiting for us after our repose.

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