Thursday 21 December 2023 — Thomas, Apostle and Martyr

O Oriens

O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.
(cf Malachi 4.2)

Arvo Pärt. Seiben Magnificat-Antiphonen (1988 / 1991). Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, dir. Tönu Kaljuste.
5. "O Morgenstern, Glanz des unversehrten Lichtes, der Gerechtigkeit/ strahlende Sonne: O komm und erleuchte, die da sitzen in Finsternis/ und im Schatten des Todes."


The doubting of Thomas, from illuminated Armenian Gospels with Eusebian canons (1609). The Bodleian Library.

Habakkuk 2:1-4

I will stand at my watch-post,
and station myself on the rampart;
I will keep watch to see what he will say to me,
and what he will answer concerning my complaint.
Then the Lord answered me and said:
Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so that a runner may read it.
For there is still a vision for the appointed time;
it speaks of the end, and does not lie.
If it seems to tarry, wait for it;
it will surely come, it will not delay.
Look at the proud!
Their spirit is not right in them,
but the righteous live by their faith.

Psalm 117

O praise the Lord, all you nations: O praise him, all you peoples. For great is his loving-kindness toward us: and the faithfulness of the Lord endures for ever. Praise the Lord.

Ephesians 2:19-22

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling-place for God.

John 20:24-29

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord. ’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.’Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.’

Zephaniah 3:14-18

Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgements against you, he has turned away your enemies.
The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disaster no more.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands grow weak.
The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory; he will rejoice over you with gladness, he will renew you in his love; he will exult over you with loud singingas on a day of festival.
I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it.

Psalm 33.17-21

17 But the eye of the Lord is on those that fear him:
   on those that trust in his unfailing love,
18 To deliver them from death:
   and to feed them in the time of dearth.
19 We have waited eagerly for the Lord:
   for he is our help and our shield.
20 Surely our hearts shall rejoice in him:
   for we have trusted in his holy name.
Let your merciful kindness be upon us, O Lord:
   even as our hope is in you.

Luke 1:39-45

In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spiritand exclaimed with a loud cry, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leapt for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord. ’

The Minor Prophets Michael Lind

None of the minor prophets
knew that he was minor, of course. Habakkuk, I imagine,
thought that his visions earned him
standing as Ezekiel's peer, if not indeed Elijah's.
Then there was Obadiah,
who could be forgiven if he thought he might be a Moses.
How they would be remembered
Providence concealed from them all, though they could see the future.

Maybe it doesn't matter.
If you're on a mission from God, sent to rebuke a city
or to redeem a nation,
where by canon-makers you're ranked may be inconsequential.
Nor is the voice within you
any less authentic for not having a distant echo.
Seers of the world, be heartened.
Even minor prophets can have genuine revelations.
Parallel Lives Etruscan Press, 2007

As we wait for the coming of Jesus Christ, kindle your light in our hearts
to keep us watchful and hopeful,
to open our lives to Christ's coming in many ways through all our days—even in the least expected ways,
to witness to Christ's ministry and love to our neighbours,
to work together for peace and reconciliation with our neighbours,
to pray for our concerns in this congregation and in our lives.
In the name of Christ.

G. F. Handel, "Rejoice greatly!" (Zephaniah 3.14) from Messiah HWV 56. Soprano: Xu Yaping or Chen Peiqi (?) with the Sunny Taipei Chamber Orchestra, cond. Sun Ai-Kuang, at the Taipei YMCA Oratorio Choir's 73rd Messiah Charity Concert, December 2019, in the Huai En Hall, Taipei.
[This lovely rendition has the great advantage that it is gentle and not too fast. It does indeed speak of peace — Ed. ]