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Sermons of Archpriest Anthony B. Gavalas
The Wounds of the Risen Savior
Today is the Sunday of St. Thomas, in which we celebrate once again the Paschal joy, we celebrate once again the Paschal jubilation, our salvation through the risen Christ. It is a day of renewal, of inauguration. It is called renewal Sunday, because in it is renewed the Paschal joy and the Paschal remembrance. In every Lord's Day, every Sunday of the ecclesiastical year there is a renewal of this resurrectional joy. Every Lord's Day, every Sunday is a small Pascha in the Typicon of the Church.
Every Sunday, the service from vespers on through to the end of the Divine Liturgy is full of Paschal hymns so as to renew in us the remembrance of what Pascha means for us in our salvation in Christ Jesus, our resurrected Savior Jesus Christ.
This Sunday of St. Thomas is a very special Sunday for us because through the hesitation and disbelief of Thomas, the reality of the Resurrection was verified. In one of the hymns the Holy Church sings that the disbelief of Thomas was a good disbelief, for like everything our Lord can take something that is negative and turn it into something positive. And we see in the probing hand of the apostle St. Thomas a verification of the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which in our day and time is so much doubted by those who consider themselves Christians, even, and yet have relegated the bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ to a myth, to some sort of a Resurrection legend, to something that didn't really happen but only has a figurative reality and not a true reality.
In the probing hand of St. Thomas, we see him touch that side from which flowed our salvation, and verifies the Resurrection of Christ.
According to the teaching of the Church, the Body of our Savior Christ before the Resurrection was subject to corruption. That is the Body of Jesus Christ suffered all of those things that all of us suffer: exhaustion, fatigue, hunger, thirst -- all of those things which are part of our human nature and are part of the corruptibility of our bodies our Lord took upon Himself. But then that same teaching of the Church is that after the Resurrection the Body of Jesus Christ was not subject to corruption. He passed through doors, for example; He appeared in other forms to people; He ate even though it was not necessary for Him to eat, but only to verify that He was truly there, and truly had a Body.
Why is it then that this incorrupt Body maintains those marks of the Passion? For it does indeed maintain those marks of the Passion. It maintains those marks of what our Savior Christ had suffered through. In His infinite condescension, He did not turn His face away from the false kiss of Judas, that kiss of betrayal. Nor did He stop those who would harm Him physically, by maiming His brow with that crown of thorns; those who hit Him in the head; those who slapped His face. We see that extraordinary, that awesome sight of Him Who clothed all of creation with the beautiful blue sky and the clouds, we see Him Who clothed all of creation exposed now naked, His back open to the wounds of the stripes of the whip, and His Body exposed naked upon the Cross.
As that hymn says to us on Holy Thursday Every part of Your Body suffered dishonor for the sake of our salvation. For truly what part of His Body was not humiliated in the Holy Passion? His Hands and His Feet with the nails; His Brow with the crown of thorns; His Side with a spear so wide and so deep that even now eight days after the Resurrection it is a yawning wound into Which St. Thomas can thrust his entire hand; a wound so deep that it passed through His Ribs and even unto His Heart opening the sac from which the heart beats in His Chest.
All of these wounds are retained in the glorified Body of the resurrected Christ. Why? Did He perhaps maintain these wounds like some people maintain wounds and show off their wounds and their bloody clothing so as to renew in themselves their anger at their attackers, seeking revenge, seeking vengeance and retribution. How can this be so, when already from the Cross Christ asked for the forgiveness of those who were tormenting Him from His Heavenly Father, saying Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. No, it was not so that He might incite vengeance on the part of Himself or of His followers did our Savior maintain those wounds on His Body. He maintained them for the same reason that He does everything: He maintains them so that we might be saved. By looking upon the wounds of Christ there might be renewed in us an understanding and a memory of those things which our Savior suffered for the sake of our salvation. And seeing these things we might not only have gratitude and admiration and awe for the sake of the God-Man Who suffered all of these things for the sake of our salvation, but that there might be moved within us a desire to have the wounds of Christ help us in the renewal of our own lives.
For when we see those wounds of the thorns in the Head of our Savior, should we not be thinking, should we not be asking of our Lord that our thoughts be cleansed? When we see the mouth that still had the taste of gall and vinegar, that we might not remember that our mouths need to be cleansed of both the words and how we speak to each other, to strangers, and to members of our families. That our words might become sweet and not brimming with vinegar and gall, causing hurt to those around us. We see the pierced Hands of our Savior, and they should remind us not to spread our hands out, not to lift up our hands to unseemly deeds; and the holes that the nails left in His Feet should remind us not to allow our feet to carry us to places inappropriate for Christians. And that wound in His side, that wound from which poured forth the water of our baptism, and the Blood of our Holy Communion; that wound from which from the old Adam was created Eve, but from the new Adam Jesus Christ is created the Church. The old Adam gave birth to an Eve, who was the ultimate cause of his downfall; the new Adam gives birth to the Church from His side, undoing the works of Eve, undoing the complicity of Adam, giving us the Church in which we might be saved, and reminding us that we must with a pure heart and an Orthodox confession confess Jesus Christ crucified, Jesus Christ resurrected unto our salvation.
All of these things are brought to us as Paschal gifts by our Lord on this day, on this feast, on this commemoration of Thomas Sunday. Let us stand as children of the Resurrection, as heirs of the Kingdom on this and on every Paschal Sunday, for all Sundays are Paschal, standing, for on these days there is not permitted any prostrations, there is not permitted any kneeling, but we stand as children of the Kingdom in anticipation of our coming participation in that eternal Pascha in the kingdom of the heavens. Through Christ Jesus our Lord, Who together with His Father is worshipped and the Holy Spirit unto the ages of ages.
Christ is risen!
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