Episcopalians are pleased, on the whole, not to be a religiously-demonstrative lot; we can, as well, be a mite smug about our denomination’s relative lack of credulity. Still, our Lord is gracious. Occasionally, Jesus will bonk one of us on the head with a two-by-four, make jazz-hands, and say, “Yo! I’m over here!” St. Thomas the Apostle is a perfect icon for such apocalyptic moments, and we celebrate his feast today.
If you are reading this on 12/21, as planned, we can all breathe easier knowing we’ve avoided the Mayan Apocalypse. Some folks (more credulous than we) were sure it would all wind up today with a burning bang, but have we dodged the apocalyptic bullet? As Inigo Montoya once famously said, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
‘Apocalypse’ is from the Greek words meaning ‘the veil away’ (απο + καλυμμα). Our sight, our hearts, our minds… are unable to see Truth clearly. We are unable to perceive ourselves and each other as God knows us and loves us. The perfect Beauty of all creation and perfect Goodness of God’s movement in and through that creation are veiled to our sight unless God removes the veil. The veil is not our sin (if it were, all we’d need to do is perfect ourselves, et voila!). Sin is a wound that God is healing day by day. Rather, the veil is our human finitude, and there’s no cure for that but grace bonking us on the head. The Good News is: that can happen anytime.
Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Apostle Thomas: the Doubter and perfect Episcopalian, who was confident enough in God’s grace and power to express his doubts honestly, but who was nevertheless completely unprepared for that grace and power to reveal itself quite so personally. Jesus ripped the veil away, just for a moment, and Thomas fell to his knees and worshipped. His life would never be the same. Apocalypse will do that to a person.
My Lord and My God!
God’s kingdom is one of peace and plenty. Our own is full of violence, destruction, and horror. We use the word ‘apocalypse’ to describe such things as 9/11/01, Katrina, and Sandy Hook – and rightly so, for in those events, the veneers of virtue, dominion, and invulnerability protecting our tiny proud selves are ripped away. Our faultiness, finitude, and need for grace pull us into a praying jumble where we wail together for help. When the veil is lifted, we see ourselves more accurately, and respond appropriately – as children who are grievously hurt, and in need of healing…. lost in the darkness, and in need of guidance and Light…
The apocalypse is always NOW. THIS MOMENT is the moment of revelation and judgment that can turn us toward Light and transform us. Today is also the Solstice: one of the oldest holy days of humankind. The Solstice is the ancient celebration of Hope – of proclaiming Returning Light even on the longest night. And in our darkened world, with our veiled but hopeful hearts, we gather to proclaim that the veil is being lifted, even now.
How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.
Written by Peach McDouall