Sunday, April 26, 2020

Fr Touma (Bitar): Thomas Revealed the Nature of Resurrection in the Body

Arabic original here.

Thomas Revealed the Nature of Resurrection in the Body

Brothers, on this blessed day known as the Sunday of the Apostle Thomas every believer wonders, "Do you think what Thomas did was helpful or harmful? Do you think it's right for us to stand at the borderline of what some people consider to be 'lack of faith', what some people consider to be 'doubt'?" In truth, what happened with Thomas is never the work of humans, but rather by God's dispensation. Thomas is human, in every sense of the word, and it is not expected that a human would believe divine things, relying on his human reality. Human reality remains limited, within the limits of skin, within the limits of sensible things, within the limits of what people's hands, eyes, senses and thoughts can reach. For a human to reach divinity, this is something impossible. Therefore, if Thomas, as a human, showed lack of faith, doubted what he was told, this is in fact the reality of all humanity. Anyone in Thomas' place would have the exact same reaction. He might perhaps speak and he might perhaps not speak. But the question remains in the human heart about this topic. The Lord Jesus came while the doors were locked. This means that His body, in which He came, was changed because we as humans cannot pass through walls. We remain within the limits of what we can do as humans. The Lord Jesus, however, did not enter through the door, but rather came as though He passed through everything that was material and came to settle in the presence of the disciples. This is, in truth, because the body of the Lord Jesus Christ became spiritual. That is, it acquired a new quality: it became a body of glory and was filled with the Lord's spirit. So when Thomas touched the Lord Jesus Christ's body, he was in practice touching two fundamental things:

First, he was touching the body of the Lord Jesus Christ which the Lord God granted to Thomas to feel in its materiality. This in itself amounts to a miracle. If Thomas felt the body's materiality, this is not because the body remained material as it had been before the Lord Jesus died on the cross. Rather, it is because the Lord God allowed Thomas at that moment to feel, as a human, His body to confirm to him-- and through him, to all of us-- that this is the very same body of the Lord Jesus Christ, the body in which the disciples knew Him, the body in which the Lord Jesus Christ lived upon the earth. It is not another body. So this is a miracle. Its purpose, however, is to confirm the Lord Jesus' identity and that His resurrection was a resurrection in the body and not a resurrection without the body. This is with the understanding that a change, as I said, occurred to the Lord Jesus' body on account of the spiritualization that took place and made it a spiritualized body or a spiritual body in a certain sense. Of course, this is very important because the disciples, in another place in the Gospels, entertained the idea that they were in the Lord Jesus Christ's presence as though they were in the presence of a phantasm, an illusion or a spirit. It was necessary to confirm the disciples in faith, so the Lord Jesus gave them proof that He had risen and that the one whom the disciples saw was not an illusion, a phantasm or a spirit, but rather the very Lord Jesus Himself, who had risen in the very same body! So Thomas was the instrument that the Lord's Holy Spirit used to prove this and to dispel from their minds any possibility that this was not the very same Lord Jesus Christ whom they knew, to dispel from their minds that this was an illusion. Therefore, when Thomas touched the Lord Jesus' body, he felt that he was touching a body. Human nature is never up for cancellation in the Lord Jesus! It is never true that He put on a body for a period of time and then cast it off like someone casts of a robe. The Lord Jesus took on a body once and forever. In other words, the second hypostasis of the Holy Trinity-- that is, the Son of God-- was united to human nature forever. When the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven and was seated at the right hand of God the Father, He ascended and was seated in His human body! That is, however, of course, in His glorified, spiritualized human body because corruption does not inherit incorruption. That which is corrupt within us-- that is, that which is subject to dissolution-- absolutely cannot be seated, in its dissolute state, at the right hand of God the Father. Therefore, the body itself was glorified, spiritualized. So Thomas confirmed to us that this is Jesus Himself and that he touched the body with his hand, beheld it and touched it! After that, then, there is no possibility of there being any illusion in the relationship between us and the Lord Jesus, God incarnate forever. We are not in a relationship with the Lord Jesus in the spirit only, but at the level of His incarnate divinity. Of course, the Apostle Paul says clearly that if we knew the Lord Jesus in the body on earth, we do not know Him after that. This in no way means that the body fell away. The body did not fall away. Nevertheless, it is no longer possible for us to interact with the spiritualized body in the same way we interact with material bodies subject to corruption and death. It is in this sense that the Lord Jesus Christ told Mary Magdalene, "Do not touch me!," because He wanted to tell her and us that the relationship to Him, from now on, cannot be as it was before His crucifixion and death. We now interact with the Lord Jesus, God incarnate, in the Lord's Holy Spirit, not in the corruption of the matter that is subject to death on earth. This is, of course, something very important and was revealed to Thomas.

The second thing, which is also very important, is that when Thomas touched the Lord Jesus, he did not remain within the limits of material touching-- that is, it did not remain within the limits of Jesus' human nature. He also touched the Lord Jesus Christ's divinity because the Lord Jesus is God incarnate. Thomas did not touch a body, he did not touch matter, but rather he touched God incarnate. So he also touched godhood. In other words, godhood is what touched him. The Lord Jesus condescended to the point that He allowed Thomas to touch divinity. And what was the result?! The result was that Thomas cried out, "my Lord and my God." In Arabic, when we say, "my Lord and my God," this implies that I am talking about my own lord or my own god. Is the same one your lord and your god? In Arabic, the sense is narrow and limited. In Greek, however, the sense is much clearer because the word lord and the word god are preceded by the definite article. That is, instead of being "my lord and my god," the sense becomes, "You are the Lord and God whom I worship and, through me, whom all humankind worships." So, the emphasis is on the Lord Jesus Christ being "Lord and God," in the total sense of the word. Of course, this declaration that the Apostle Thomas made could not have been made if he had not touched divinity. Or rather, if divinity had not touched Thomas and caused him to speak of divine things. What Thomas touched is Lord and God! For this reason, in all the Gospels we do not find any clearer, more explicit and more precise declaration that the Lord Jesus Christ is Lord and God than the declaration that the Apostle Thomas made. Thomas' declaration is therefore very important because it affirms the Lord Jesus' humanity and it affirms that humanity is called in Him to be glorified, to be divinized, to be spiritualized! It likewise affirms that this is Lord and God. Of course, the Lord Jesus avoided speaking directly about His being Lord and God when He went about His earthly path before the cross. But now, with His having risen from the dead, Thomas has been given an anointing from the Lord's Holy Spirit to announce to us all that this one in whom we believe is perfect man and perfect God, He is God and Lord, and that His humanity has united with His godhood. All of this is so that we may know that all of us, in the Lord Jesus Christ, are called to be divinized, to be spiritualized. We become spiritualized and divinized in this body. But first of all this body must die. It must disintegrate. Why?! Because death lies within this body, and so too the passions and sin. So one must die first in the body so that one's sin and passions may die. Then, after that, the Lord Jesus Christ gathers up this very body and brings it back, in the image of what the Prophet Ezekiel said. Then, our bodies all become bodies of glory, as the Lord Jesus' body was shown to be a body of glory when He stood before Thomas.

What happened to the Lord Jesus will happen to all who believe in Jesus Christ on the Day of Resurrection. But what happens between now and the general resurrection? Do we stay waiting in the grave? Not at all! The body must remain in the ground, but the Lord God has given man new life. What was said of the Lord Jesus, when He was hanged upon the cross, that He gave up His spirit, means that the Lord God has given us the Spirit of Life. The Spirit of Life is diffused within us. The primary sign that we have received new life from now on is that we are baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Baptism is precisely our receiving the new life that the Lord Jesus Christ has given us. Therefore, when someone dies, his body remains in the grave. But his life that is tied to his personality, his consciousness, his identity, this life of his extends, continues, goes out and is filled with life and light, since each of us, in death, is in the bosom of the Heavenly Father and is in heavenly mansions, is alive, because our God is not God of the dead, but God of the living. In death, then, we remain alive and indeed, we are filled with God's life, until the hour of the general resurrection comes. Then, the Lord Jesus will raise us up in the bodies that had disintegrated and we shall become perfect humans in the body, we shall be in bodies of glory, we shall be like the Lord Jesus. All this, then, was revealed to us in one form or another, in one manner or another, through the Apostle Thomas. For this reason, the Holy Church decided to make his commemoration on the first Sunday after the glorious resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Glory to the one who granted us to know, to be filled with His divine promises and His life, because we who have known the Lord Jesus have come to be in the fullness of His life and He has come to dwell within us and shall remain dwelling within us in the Spirit forever!


Archimandrite Touma (Bitar)
Abbot of the Monastery of Saint Silouan the Athonite
Sunday, April 26, 2020

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