This is the last Feast the Church keeps before the great one of the Nativity of her Lord and Spouse. She interrupts the Greater Ferias in order to pay her tribute of honour to Thomas, the Apostle of Christ, whose glorious martyrdom has consecrated this twenty-first day of December, and has procured for the Christian people a powerful patron, that will introduce them to the divine Babe of Bethlehem. To none of the Apostles could this day have been so fittingly assigned as to St. Thomas. It was St. Thomas whom we needed; St. Thomas, whose festal patronage would aid us to believe and hope in that God whom we see not, and who comes to us in silence and humility in order to try our Faith. St. Thomas was once guilty of doubting, when he ought to have believed and only learnt the necessity of Faith by
the sad experience of incredulity: he comes then most appropriately to defend us, by the power of his example and prayers, against the temptations which proud human reason might excite within us. Letmus pray to him with confidence. In that heaven of Light and Vision, where his repentance and love have placed him, he will intercede for us, and gain for us that docility of mind and heart, which will enable us to see and recognise Him, who is the Expected of Nations, and who, though the King of the world, will give no other signs of his majesty, than the swaddling-clothes and tears of a Babe.
But let us first read the Acts of our holy Apostle. The Church has deemed it prudent to give us them in an exceedingly abridged form, which contains only the most reliable facts, gathered from authentic sources and thus, she excludes all those details, which have no historic authority.
Whether the pre-1570 lessons of Saint Thomas's Office were too full of pious fabulation or for some other reason, the Breviary gives us the wonderful homilizing of Saint Gregory the Great in the Matins lessons remaining (5 through 9) following this single hagiographical one. I went to look, and Dr Dippo writes, "(t)he church of Rome always remained very cautious about the more legendary lives of the Saints, and the pre-Tridentine Roman Breviary says little more about Thomas than does that of St Pius V" i.e. the text of Saint Gregory is highly fitting for today's date (five days until our Salvation appears for us!) and also the substance of the lesson Dom Prosper published is in fact what is more or less historically credible.
Lectio 4Thomas Apóstolus, qui et Dídymus, Galilǽus, post accéptum Spíritum Sanctum in multas províncias proféctus est ad prædicándum Christi Evangélium: Parthis, Medis, Persis, Hyrcánis et Bactris christiánæ fídei et vitæ præcépta trádidit. Postrémo ad Indos se cónferens, eos in christiána religióne erudívit. Qui ad extrémum, vitæ doctrinǽque sanctitáte et miraculórum magnitúdine, cum céteris ómnibus sui admiratiónem et Jesu Christi amórem commovísset; illíus gentis regem, idolórum cultórem, magis ad iram accéndit: cujus senténtia condemnátus, telísque confóssus, Calamínæ apostolátus honórem martýrii coróna decorávit.
℟. Vidi conjúnctos viros, habéntes spléndidas vestes, et Ángelus Dómini locútus est ad me, dicens:* Isti sunt viri sancti facti amíci Dei.℣. Vidi Ángelum Dei fortem, volántem per médium cælum, voce magna clamántem et dicéntem.℟. Isti sunt viri sancti facti amíci Dei.
The Great Antiphon of Saint Thomas (not one of the more beautiful of the Os, I think; not admitted into the Roman Liturgy, in any event, not in preparation for Christmas, at least).
O Thoma Didyme qui Christum meruisti cernere te precibus rogamus altisonis, succurre nobis miseris ne damnemur cum impiis, in Adventu Judicis.
O glorious Apostle Thomas! who didst lead to Christ so many unbelieving nations, hear now the prayers of the faithful, who beseech thee to lead them to that same Jesus, who, in five days, will have shown himself to his Church. That we may merit to appear in his divine presence, we need, before all other graces, the light which leads to him. That light is Faith; then, pray that we may have Faith. Heretofore, our Saviour had compassion on thy weakness, and deigned to remove from thee the doubt of his having risen from the grave; pray to him for us, that he will mercifully come to our assistance, and make himself felt by our heart. We ask not, holy Apostle, to see him with the eyes of our body, but with those of our faith, for he said to thee, when he showed himself to thee: Blessed are they who have not seen, and have believed. Of this happy number, we desire to be. We beseech thee, therefore, pray that we may obtain the Faith of the heart and will, that so, when we behold the divine Infant wrapped in swaddling-clothes and laid in a manger, we may cry out, My Lord and my God. Pray, O holy Apostle, for the nations thou didst evangelise, but which have fallen back again into the shades of death. May the day soon come, when the Sun of Justice will once more shine upon them. Bless the efforts of those apostolic men, who have devoted their labours and their very lives to the work of the Missions; pray that the days of darkness may be shortened, and that the countries, which were watered by thy blood, may at length see that kingdom of God established amongst them, which thou didst preach to them, and for which we also are in waiting.