Man is ordered to the good, the true, and the beautiful because, as the Catholic Church teaches, in such things we encounter God.
There are many today who doubt Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Not only doubt Christ’s Resurrection but doubt Jesus Christ ever lived at all. My answer to this is: Good!
Doubt, fully formed, fully matured, brings us to investigate the truth of something. When we doubt, when we really doubt, we are not in some skeptical, immature, and boorish state of ignoring something. On the contrary. Doubt creates pause. Doubt creates examination. Doubt creates reflection. Doubt, in the most mature sense of what it is, causes one to fully immerse oneself into the object of doubt itself.
This, fellow sinners, is the first step toward finding the reality and truth of something.
Let there be doubt!
Saint Thomas the Apostle lived, ate, walked, and prayed with the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth, who Himself, suffered under Pontius Pilate (yet another certifiably provable historical figure in human history).
As my good friend, Patrick van der Vorst, at Christian Art suggests, the painting is capturing the intersection of inspection (doubt) and faith.
For a reflection about this painting please enjoy below.
Peace be with you!
The fine arts, but above all sacred art, “of their nature are directed toward expressing in some way the infinite beauty of God in works made by human hands….”
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John 20:19-31
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to 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 into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
The Gospel of the Lord
Reflection on the Painting
by Patrick van der Vorst
What I like about today’s drawing by Jessie Boston, is that the hands on the bottom left that come into the sheet of paper could well be our own hands, not just those of Saint Thomas. He was inspecting the wounds of Christ, including putting his hand into the wound of Christ, as we read in today’s Gospel reading.
I have written about this before, but I am not keen on labelling St Thomas as ‘Doubting Thomas’. In popular tradition it somehow implies that ’doubting Thomas’ was just a skeptic who refused to believe anything without direct personal experience; or refused to believe that the resurrected Jesus had actually appeared to the ten other apostles, until the very point that he could see and feel the wounds received by Jesus on the cross. Thomas was not a doubter.
Calling him a doubter somehow seems to imply that doubt is opposed to faith… and it isn’t. Doubt is what can drive us to learn more, to read more, to be more inquisitive, to search… and in all of this our faith grows. Look at all the other apostles just after the Resurrection of our Lord. They all had their doubts, frustrations and moments of disbelief. Thomas was certainly bolder in voicing his concerns, but he wasn’t the only one doubting. We all often doubt in our faith.
Also, calling Thomas a doubter somehow seems to imply that in order to have faith, one needs to have certainty. So are we saying that people who doubt don’t have belief or faith? Of course not. Doubt is not opposed to belief. Doubt is part of belief. In the original Greek text of the New Testament, the meaning of ‘doubter’ is the same word as ‘inquirer’. And that is what Jesus is asking us to do: to inquire, to seek, to learn, to ask, to search and thus delve deeper and deeper into the mystery of our faith.
Credit: Patrick van der Vorst, Gospel Reading for Today, Christian Art, "Doubt no longer but believe" April 11, 2021; https://www.christian.art/todays-reading.php Information herein posted under the "rules of fair use" to foster education and discussion in accordance with Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976.
Truth, Beauty, and Sacred Art
from the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Created “in the image of God,” man also expresses the truth of his relationship with God the Creator by the beauty of his artistic works. Indeed, art is a distinctively human form of expression; beyond the search for the necessities of life which is common to all living creatures, art is a freely given superabundance of the human being’s inner riches. Arising from talent given by the Creator and from man’s own effort, art is a form of practical wisdom, uniting knowledge and skill, to give form to the truth of reality in a language accessible to sight or hearing. To the extent that it is inspired by truth and love of beings, art bears a certain likeness to God’s activity in what he has created. Like any other human activity, art is not an absolute end in itself, but is ordered to and ennobled by the ultimate end of man (CCC 2501).
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Saint Paul, Letter to the Philippians (4:8)
St. Paul, Apostle, Martyr, pray for us.
Be not afraid! And may the peace of Christ be with you and your loved ones today and always. Holy Family, pray for us. Amen.