Sunday, April 15, 2012

No doubt that Thomas is missed

In the RCL, today’s Gospel (John 20:19-31) is the Doubting Thomas passage. From the Authorized Version (verses 24-29):
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the LORD. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

And Thomas answered and said unto him, My LORD and my God.

Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
This inspired the absolutely marvelous 15th century text (translated by the great J.M. Neale) of “O sons and daughters, let us sing” (Hymn #99 in my favorite hymnal):
When Thomas first the tidings heard,
how they had seen the risen Lord,
he doubted the disciples' word.
Alleluia!

"My pierc├Ęd side, O Thomas, see;
my hands, my feet, I show to thee;
not faithless but believing be."
Alleluia!

No longer Thomas then denied;
he saw the feet, the hands, the side;
"Thou art my Lord and God," he cried.
Alleluia!

How blest are they who have not seen,
and yet whose faith has constant been;
for they eternal life shall win.
Alleluia!
From decades of Episcopal singing, this are the only verses in the hymnal that I recall speaking to St. Thomas. Hymnal 1940 recommends using these verses for the First Sunday after Easter and other verses for Easter, so I guess it’s up to the music director or priest to pick and choose the right combination.

For a few minutes, I thought this passage about Thomas had been lobotomized by the editors of Hymnal 1982, since the text is no longer in Hymn #203. However, the editors (quite sensibly I think) split the nine verses into two hymns, with #203 using the Easter text and #206 including the Easter 2 verses about Thomas and the Apostles.

Three cheers for Hymnal 1982! (Regular readers know that such praise won’t happen again any time soon.)

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