Monday, December 22, 2008

Saint Thomas

Today, in spite of Advent and the approach of Christmas, we are taken to the post-Easter story of Saint Thomas the Apostle on his feast day (transferred to a day later this year because of the Fourth Sunday of Advent). Thomas, of course, is best remembered for not believing in Jesus' resurrection until he had touched and seen for himself, as recounted in John 20:24-28.

There are other mentions of Thomas in the New Testament, but all are overshadowed by this story. Though he was apparently a twin, we never hear about that sibling. He was at the Last Supper; he once exhorted his fellow apostles to follow Jesus though it might mean all their deaths, and there are several accounts of his later life, yet he remains "doubting Thomas."

We walk by faith, and not by sight;
No gracious words we hear
From you, who spoke as none e'er spoke;
But we believe you near.

We may not touch your hands and side,
Nor follow where you trod;
But in your promise we rejoice;
And cry, "My Lord and God!"

O Jesus, help our unbelief;
And may our faith abound,
To call on you when you are near,
And seek where you are found:

That, when our life of faith is done,
In realms of clearer light
We may behold you as you are,
With full and endless sight.

Henry Alford, 1844; alt.
Tune: ST. BOTOLPH (C.M.)
Gordon Slater, c.1930

This feels to me like a more modern hymn text than it is. Generally, nineteenth century hymnwriters referred to the Biblical biographies of saints in hymns for their feast days. This text by Henry Alford, which was written for St, Thomas' Day in Alford's hymnal Psalms and Hymns Adapted to the Sundays and Holydays Throughout the Year, To Which Are Added Some Occasional Hymns (1844), looks forward to the hymn writers of our time, who are often more likely to explore the connection between the life of the saint and our own lives today.

1 comment:

Leland Bryant Ross said...

Thanks, that's a good one. I like Troeger's Thomas hymn even better, but of course it is under copyright.

Leland aka Haruo