|THE CAT’S MEOW
St. Mark’s Anglican Church, Port Hope
The 2nd Sunday of Easter 19 April 2020
Meditation and the Eternal Now: The Unbelief of St. Thomas (Fr Randy+)
One of the Twelve, Thomas the Twin, was not with the rest when Jesus came. 25So the others kept telling him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails on his hands, unless I put my finger into the place where the nails were, and my hand into his side, I will never believe it.’ 26A week later his disciples were once again in the room, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them, saying, ‘Peace be with you!’ 27Then he said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here; look at my hands. Reach your hand here and put it into my side. Be unbelieving no longer, but believe.’ 28Thomas said, ‘My Lord and my God!’ 29Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen me you have found faith. Happy are they who find faith without seeing me.’ John 20.24-29
Recorded exclusively in John’s gospel, the story of St. Thomas’s encounter with the risen Christ is one that opens for us avenues of wonder and spiritual imagination. John’s sketch of the event offers few details; it doesn’t inform us, for example, that Thomas took Jesus up on his offer to let him place his hand in Jesus’ wounded side. Which is likely a deliberate choice on John’s part. For his choice not to tell all allows us to rest in meditation—to enter the depths and dimensions of this event, and not remain on its surface. John compels us, not to think only, but to enter in. The recording of facts may satisfy our curiosity, and our culture’s demand to ‘know,’ but such recording leaves little room for rest in meditation which yields spiritual awareness and prompts revaluation of where the Spirit leads— the sense that there’s more present than evidence of a miracle.
While I’ve seen many other paintings (and there are many) of Thomas’s encounter with Jesus in the upper room, Caravaggio’s Incredulity of St. Thomas captures best this point, so important to the awakening in ourselves of spiritual awareness; and with spiritual awareness, spiritual understanding of eternity and kingdom. Caravaggio allows his spiritual eyes to open wide, to interpret Thomas’s encounter as having a dimension not discernible through thought—through figuring out what this or any biblical story means. In this vein Caravaggio envisions Thomas as not only accepting Jesus’ offer, but in so doing beholding humanity inside Christ’s wound. In the past I have used a story from the Hindu tradition to express in words what Caravaggio perhaps intuited as he worked on his painting. The story recounts how Yashoda, cradling her child, the god Krishna, in her arms watched as he yawned. And there, in the open mouth of the child, she saw the entirety of the universe. This Hindu story, as well as John’s account of the Thomas incident and Caravaggio’s interpretation of it, raises a couple of points. First, that as a religion that stresses incarnation—the word made flesh, heaven meeting earth—Christianity compels us through meditation to prick the surface our awareness of these two apparent polarities— to re-evaluate or renew our awareness. The image of Thomas peering into Christ’s side and seeing more there than he bargained for, prompts him to exclaim, “My Lord and my God.” Beneath the flesh of God-made-man is the entirety of humanity. This brings us to ponder again St. John’s account of Good Friday. As Jesus’ side is pierced by a spear, blood and water pour out in allusion to baptism and eucharist. These two sacramental elements bear us up on their flow. When we are re-birthed by water in baptism, and when we eat and drink sacramentally the body and blood of Christ crucified, we share in the person and life of Christ glorified, so that his union with God becomes our own union through mutual abiding, he in us and we in him.
The second point is that, with the sight of humanity in Christ’s side, Thomas sees eternity also. Often we think of eternity as an extension of time. But what eternity means in the Christian sense is the presence of the Kingdom of God in the here and now. And this highlights the significance of moment-by-moment awareness of what you and I are doing, what we are in the midst of, and giving it our full attention. Many of us live lives in which we almost continually project into the future; we distract ourselves with thoughts of success, income, reputation, winning arguments and so forth. We are unendingly fascinated by what life will be like once we have fulfilled our future-oriented wish list. But life in the moment—in eternity—is what brings true joys. It frees us from fretful thinking and excessive planning; in some cases from recourse to violence and hate to get what we want.
While he speaks of the effects of viewing old master artworks in this period of pandemic, the following excerpt from an article by Peter Schjeldahl, Mortality and the Old Masters, speaks to the value and maturity of a spiritual life grounded in meditation, of a life lived in the eternal now such that it causes re-evaluation of our experience and understanding of ourselves and of God.
This sort of reëvaluation can happen when events disrupt your life’s habitual ways and means. You may be taken not only out of yourself—the boon of successful work in every art form, when you’re in the mood for it—but out of your time, relocated to a particular past that seems to dispel, in a flash of undeniable reality, everything that you thought you knew. It’s not like going back to anything. It’s like finding yourself anticipated as an incidental upshot of fully realized, unchanging truths. The impression passes quickly, but it leaves a mark that’s indistinguishable from a wound. Here’s a prediction of our experience when we are again free to wander museums: Everything in them will be other than what we remember. The objects won’t have altered, but we will have, in some ratio of good and ill. The casualties of the coronavirus will accompany us spectrally. Until, inevitably, we begin to forget, for a while we will have been reminded of our oneness throughout the world and across time with all the living and the dead. The works await us as expressions of individuals and of entire cultures that have been—and vividly remain—light-years ahead of what passes for our understanding. Things that are better than other things, they may even induce us to consider, however briefly, becoming a bit better, too. *
* Peter Schjeldahl, ‘Mortality and the Old Masters.’ The New Yorker, April 6, 2020
A GIFT FOR FATHER RANDY You are invited to consider making a donation in celebration of Fr Randy’s incumbency at St. Mark’s to either of the following charities:
Doctors without Borders
551 Adelaide St. West
Toronto, ON M5V 0N8
Nature Conservancy of Canada
245 Eglinton Ave. East, Suite 410
Toronto, ON M4P 3J1
PRAYERS If you would like, we can gather in The Cat’s Meow the names of those who are suffering in body, mind or spirit at this time and for whom you have a special concern and we can each undertake to lift them up in prayer before God. Let us have names by next Friday and they will be included in the next issue and onward.
Our thanks to Anne Oram for ringing the St. Mark’s bell at 9 a.m. on Easter Morning and to all who joined in from their porches;
To Peter Kedwell and Susan Abel for services rendered in Holy Week and on Easter Morning;
To Cathy Carlyle and Fr. Randy and all who have been phoning our members;
To all St. Markers for being The Body of Christ. ‘We will meet again.’
An Excerpt from Bishop Andrew Asbel’s Letter to the Diocese, April 17, 2020
“How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” laments the Psalmist (137:4). Indeed, the coming weeks may be more challenging than the first, as we get used to doing things differently in this new normal, which may last longer than we had originally thought. Some changes – I’m not sure which – may end up being permanent. And there is a grief there that needs to be acknowledged with that. …
We work now towards a day when this particular exile will be a memory, but we will have sung the Lord’s song throughout, so that the words and music are not forgotten…..
Tell the story, share the message. Be of good courage.
Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
From Patrick Gray:
The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.
The day of my spiritual awakening was the day I saw—and knew I saw—all things in God, and God in all things.
Mechtild of Magdeburg
They are leaving:
Some have already gone,
Some depart in haste,
But all are going.The stragglers now
Are being gathered in.
They take the memories,
Decades and decades deep,
Of ages now gone by:
Of war with its loss
And its intensity,
Days of their lives;
And the habitude
Of careful living
They could never shake,
To the perplexity
Of profligate youth;
Of a world constantly shifting
Under their feet,
As age succeeded age,
And only they
Remained the same.
They take their courtly ways,
Their old-world graces,
And their disgraces
They consign to silence.
Now, at this turning,
We have in our hands
Nothing to give them
Already we fade,
Fade from their sight,
The living ghosts.
Their faces turn
Toward some further shore.
They yearn towards the light,
The face once lost in tears,
The open arms.
Patrick T. Gray
On a recognizable St. Mark’s theme
The Cat’s Meow: For inclusion, contact Marion Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org before Friday morning. 905-885-0787
Provided pro bono to St. Mark’s by:
Jim Corkery at Corkery + Co.