Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Collect - St Thomas

The Prayer

ALMIGHTY and everliving God, who for the more confirmation of the faith didst suffer thy holy Apostle Thomas to be doubtful in thy Son's resurrection; Grant us so perfectly, and without all doubt, to believe in thy Son Jesus Christ, that our faith in thy sight may never be reproved. Hear us, O Lord, through the same Jesus Christ, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, now and forevermore. Amen.


Reading this collect might make the Anglican Catholic a bit uncomfortable. Composed in 1549, presumably by Archbishop Cranmer, it is the only Collect for a Saint's Day in the Prayer Book (or possibly in the whole of Christian history!) that focuses on a failure of the Saint rather than his or her sanctity or good example. Not only that, but it talks about God "suffer"-ing, putting up with, Thomas' doubt, as if to say, "Thanks God for tolerating Thomas and not striking him dead!". Yet more unusually, the Collect finishes by effectively asking that we may do better than the Apostle in this regard!

However, the fact is that it was Jesus Himself who opened up the possibility of such a Collect by saying to St Thomas: "[B]e not faithless, but believing ... because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." And, of course, nothing Our Lord or the Collect say implies that St Thomas' holiness thereafter is to be seen only in the light of this mistaken doubt.

It is also comforting to know both that even the Saints can make big mistakes and that God can still make the best of such errors, turning them around to his glory. This is no reason to be careless about our failures -- they can and do have negative consequences best avoided. But it is good to be reminded that our gracious God is in control of the situation. He cannot be finally thwarted.


Lord, we thank you that the success of your Plan does not all rest on us! We thank you that you deal graciously with our foibles and failings. May we see that past sins and mistakes do not prevent us from achieving our greatest goal, in a sense, our only goal: becoming Saints with a capital S. Then we can follow in St Thomas' footsteps after his restoration to faith, doing God's will and reflecting his image with "ever-increasing glory" (2 Cor. 3.18, NIV).

Fr Matthew Kirby


ACC Member said...

It reminds me of a little song taught to us in Sunday School as a kid: "Why worry, when you can pray? Trust Jesus, he'll be your stay. Don't be a doubting Thomas! Stand fully on God's promise. Why worry, when you can pray?" To teach us to have faith is not such a bad thing. It shows Thomas' human side and serves as an example that like Thomas, we can do better.

poetreader said...

I see St. Thomas (feastday tomorrow) as a shining definition of what faith really is. He could not quite manage to believe that given miracles had happened or even could happen, but his faith in Jesus the person never wavered. Recently in the Daily Office the Lazarus story was read, in which Thomas, believing that Lazarus was dead and that there was no remedy he could accept, was still ready to follow Jesus' lead, no matter how ueseless it looked - even to go to Lazarus and to die with him. After Easter, we find him doubting the event, but not the person -- seeing Him he became the first to call Him 'my Lord and my God'. I can gladly pray the collect, but I also pray that the Lord give me a faith as strong as that of Thomas. May he pray for us to that end.