The Sixth Day of the Month of October
The Life and Passion of the
Holy Apostle Thomas
From The Great Collection of the Lives of the Saints
Volume 2: October
compiled by St. Demetrius of Rostov
The holy Apostle Thomas, who was called "The Twin," was from the city of Paneada in Galilee. When our Lord Jesus Christ, during His sojourn on earth with men, passed through cities and villages, teaching the people and healing all manner of disease, Thomas hearkened unto His preaching and saw His miracles. Cleaving unto the Lord fervently, he followed Him, filling himself with the Lord’s words and with the sight of His most holy countenance. Thomas was vouchsafed by Him to be numbered in the choir of the twelve apostles, with whom he followed Christ even until the time of the saving Passion.
After the Lord’s Resurrection, the faith of the Church in Christ was increased through Saint Thomas’ unbelief. When the other apostles told him that they had seen the Lord, Thomas would not believe them until he himself had beheld and touched Christ’s wounds. Eight days after the Resurrection, the disciples gathered together and Thomas was with them; and the Lord appeared and said, Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side: and be not faithless, but believing.
When Thomas had beheld and touched the life-giving side of Christ, he exclaimed, My Lord and my God!
Thus did Thomas confirm for all that the risen Lord was no specter and that He had not assumed another body, but that He arose and appeared to the disciples in the same flesh which suffered for our salvation.
After the Ascension of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit, the holy apostles cast lots to determine where each would preach the word of God. To Saint Thomas fell the lot to go to India, that he might enlighten that benighted land and teach its various peoples: the Parthians, Medes, Persians, Hyrcanians, Bactrians, and the Brahmans, who lived in the most distant parts of the country of India. He was grieved to be sent to such barbarous peoples, but the Lord appeared unto him in a vision and strengthened him, commanding him not to fear. He promised to abide with Thomas and showed him the way to those lands in the following manner:
Gundafor, the King of India, who desired to erect for himself a royal palace of the most splendid sort, sent Abban, a merchant of his country, to the land of Palestine, to find there a skilled builder who knew well the science of architecture and could build a palace like those in which the emperors of the Romans lived. It was with this Abban that the Lord commanded Thomas to go to the land of India. Thomas met Abban while the latter was searching in Caesarea for a skilled builder, and Thomas told him that he was proficient in the science of architecture. Thomas went with Abban and they took ship, setting sail on their journey with a fair wind.
When they put in at a certain city, Thomas and Abban heard the sound of trumpets, of music, and of organs, for the King of that city was giving his daughter in marriage that day. The King sent heralds throughout the city to proclaim that rich and poor, bondsmen and strangers alike should gather together for the wedding. If anyone did not wish to come, he would be subject to the King’s judgment. When Abban and Thomas heard this, they feared to anger the King of that country, and so they went to the royal palace for the wedding. After everyone had been seated and those present began to make merry, the Apostle sat down in the last place. He ate nothing and took no part in the merriment but remained immersed in his thoughts, and all regarded him as a most peculiar foreigner. Those who reclined next to him asked him, "Why did you come here when you do not eat or drink?"
Answered the Apostle, "I have not come here to eat and to drink but to do the will of the King, for the heralds proclaimed that whoever did not come to the wedding would be subject to the King’s judgment."
Among those present was a Jewess who played well upon the lute, and for each of those who reclined and supped she sang a song. When she saw that Thomas did not make merry but rather looked up frequently to heaven, she perceived that he was a Jew. She came to play before him and sang to him these words in the Hebrew tongue, "One is the God of the Jews, Who has made heaven and the earth."
The Apostle heard her gladly and asked her to repeat those words several times. But when the cupbearer saw that the Apostle did not take part in the revelry, he struck him, saying, "You were summoned to the wedding not to mourn but to rejoice and to join the company of those who drink!"
The Apostle said to him who struck him, "May the Lord repay you for this even in the present life, and may I see the hand which struck me dragged about by a dog in the sight of many!"
Somewhat later, the cupbearer went out to the well to draw for the guests water to mix with their wine. A lion fell upon him by the well and slew him, and after it had lapped up his blood, it departed. Then came dogs, which tore his members apart. One black dog snatched up his right hand, carried it into the midst of the feast, and cast it down before all. When those present saw this, they were troubled and asked whose hand it was. And the woman who played the lute exclaimed, "A great mystery has come to pass among us, for either God or God’s messenger has deigned to recline in our midst! For I beheld how the cupbearer struck this man, and he cried out in Hebrew, ’May I see your right hand dragged about by a dog in the sight of many!’ And this has occurred, as you can see." When the woman said this, fear fell upon all.
After the banquet had come to an end, the King summoned the holy Apostle Thomas and said, "Go into the bridal chamber and bless my daughter, who has been given in marriage."
The Apostle entered the room and exhorted the young couple to be chaste and to preserve the purity of their virginity. He then prayed over the bride and bridegroom, blessed them, and withdrew. In a little while, they fell asleep, and they beheld Jesus, Who came to them in the form of the holy Apostle Thomas and embraced them with love. The bridegroom, thinking it was Thomas, said to Him, "Did You not depart already? How is it You are come again?"
The Lord said, "I am not Thomas but his Brother. All they who renounce the world and follow Me, as he has done, shall not only be My brethren in the age to come but shall inherit My kingdom. Therefore, do not forget, 0 my children, that which My brother has counselled you. If, in accordance with his admonition, you preserve your virginity inviolate, you shall be vouchsafed imperishable crowns in My heavenly bridal chamber."
Having said this, the Lord vanished. When they awoke, the bride and bridegroom related to one another what they had seen. They arose and prayed to God fervently the whole night, and they kept in their hearts like most precious pearls the words which were said to them.
In the morning, the King entered the bridal chamber. When he saw the bride and bridegroom sitting apart, he was troubled in heart and asked them why they were not together. They answered him, "We are praying God that He grant us strength until death to preserve in our marriage that perfect chastity in which we now abide, that we be crowned with crowns incorruptible, as the Lord, Who appeared unto us, promised."
Then the King understood that it was the stranger who had entered the bridal chamber the day before that had instructed them to keep their virginity. He became very angry and immediately dispatched his servants to lay hold of the Apostle. But they did not find him, for Thomas had already set sail for India with Abban.
When Thomas and Abban arrived in India, they presented themselves to King Gundafor; and Abban said, "Lo, my sovereign lord, I have brought you an exceedingly wise builder from Palestine, that he might build you palaces such as are pleasing to Your Majesty."
The King was delighted to see Thomas and showed him the place where he wished to build his palace. When the foundation had been measured, the King gave Thomas much gold for the construction and himself departed into another land. But Thomas took the gold and distributed it to those who were in need, to paupers and to the poor. He began to labor in the preaching of the Gospel, and he led many to the faith of Christ and baptized them.
At that time, the young man, who with his bride had hearkened unto Saint Thomas’ counsel in the bridal chamber and vowed to preserve his virginity, heard that the Apostle was preaching Christ in India. He took his spouse and went with her to the Apostle, and after being instructed much by him, they received Holy Baptism. The maiden received the name Pelagia and later shed her blood for Christ; the youth was called Dionysius and was counted worthy of the rank of bishop. With the Apostle’s blessing, they returned to their native land, where they spread abroad God’s glory, leading unbelievers to Christ and founding churches in the cities.
After two years, the King sent messengers to the Apostle to learn whether the palace would soon be completed. The Apostle replied that there remained but to finish the roof. The King rejoiced, for he thought that Thomas was truly building a palace for him on earth, and he sent him much gold, ordering that the building quickly be provided with a magnificent roof. When Thomas received this additional gold, he lifted up his eyes and hands unto heaven and cried, "I thank Thee, 0 Lord, Who lovest mankind, that Thou dost arrange the salvation of men in divers ways!" And again he distributed among those who asked of him the gold he had received, and he continued to preach the word of God.
Some time passed, and the King learned that the work he had ordered done was not even begun, that his gold had been given to the poor, and that the builder gave no thought to the construction of his palace but was rather going through cities and villages, preaching a new God and working wondrous miracles. Therefore, the King became very angry and sent his servants to seize Thomas. When Thomas had been brought before him, the King asked him, "Have you built the palace?"
Thomas replied, "I have, and moreover, it is an exceedingly beautiful and magnificent building."
The King said, "Let us go and look at what you have built."
Said the Apostle, "In the present life you cannot see this palace, but when you depart from this life, you will behold it and shall rejoice to live there unto the ages."
Thinking that Thomas was mocking him, the King was cast into deep grief; and he ordered that Thomas, together with Abban, the merchant who had brought him there, be cast into prison. They were to remain there until put to a cruel death, for the King had resolved to flay them and then to burn them alive.
While they were in prison, Abban reproached the Apostle, saying, "You deceived both me and the King by calling yourself a skilled architect! Where now is the King’s gold? You have ruined my life, and it is because of you that I suffer and am to die a vicious death, for the King is a hard man and will slay us both."
But the Apostle comforted Abban, saying to him, "Do not fear: we shall not die now but shall live and be set free. Moreover, the King will restore us to honor because of the palace which I have built him in the kingdom on high."
That very night the King’s brother fell ill. He sent word to the King, saying, "Because of the sorrow which has overcome you, I also was grieved, and in my anguish I have taken ill, and now I am about to die."
Forgetting his former distress, the King succumbed to a new sorrow and grieved inconsolably over his brother’s death. But an angel of the Lord took the dead man’s soul, carried it up to the mansions of heaven, and led it through the dwellings there, showing it many fair and splendid palaces. Among them was one which was more beautiful and magnificent than the others, the splendor of which cannot be described, and the angel asked the man’s soul, "In which of these palaces would you be pleased to dwell?"
The soul, its gaze fixed upon the most beautiful palace, said, "If it were permitted me to live in but a corner of this palace, I would ask nothing more."
Said the angel, "You may not dwell in this palace, for it is your brother’s and was built for him with the gold which he gave to the stranger Thomas."
The soul said, "I beseech you, my lord, let me go to my brother, that I may purchase this palace from him, for he knows nothing of its beauty. And when I have bought it, I will return here."
Then the angel returned the man’s soul to its body, and immediately the dead man revived. As though rising from sleep, he asked those surrounding him for his brother, begging that the King be brought to his side. When the King heard that his brother had returned to life, he rejoiced greatly and hastened to him, and when he saw him alive, he was struck with fear and was filled with happiness. Then the man who had risen from the dead began to speak to him, saying, "I know of a certainty, 0 King, that you love me as your brother and that you wept over me, and that had it been possible for you to deliver me from death, you would have given half your kingdom."
The King said, "Yes, truly it is so."
His brother continued, "Since you love me thus, I ask of you one gift, in the hope that you will not refuse me."
The King said, "Everything which belongs to me in my kingdom is yours, my beloved brother. I will give you anything in it you ask." The King confirmed his word with an oath.
Then the risen brother said, "Give me the palace which you have in the heavens, and take all my wealth in exchange!"
When the King heard this, he was troubled and fell silent, as though he had lost the faculty of speech. Then he said, "And how have I acquired a palace in the heavens?"
Said his brother, "Indeed, you have a palace such as you cannot imagine. You have never seen anything similar anywhere beneath the heavens. It was built for you by Thomas, whom you hold in prison. I have seen it and marvelled at its unutterable beauty, and I would have remained in but a corner of it, but this was not permitted me. The angel who was my guide said to me, ’You may not dwell in this palace, for it is your brother’s and was built for him by the stranger Thomas.’ I besought the angel to permit me to return to you, that I might buy the palace from you; therefore, if you love me, give it to me, and take in its place all that is mine."
Then the King rejoiced greatly, both on account of his brother’s return to life and because of the palace which had been built for him in the heavens. And he said to his resurrected brother, "Beloved brother, I swore not to refuse you anything which is in my kingdom upon earth, but I did not promise you that palace which is in heaven. But if you wish, we have an architect who can build for you one like it."
Having said this, the King immediately sent his servants to the dungeon to bring forth Saint Thomas and Abban, the merchant who had brought him. When the Apostle entered his presence, the King fell at his feet, asking forgiveness of him for the sin which he had committed in ignorance. The Apostle gave thanks unto God and began to instruct both brothers in the faith which is in our Lord Jesus Christ. They were moved to compunction and received his words gladly, and he taught them to live as Christians and shortly thereafter baptized them. And both brothers gave abundant alms to the poor, thereby building for themselves eternal mansions in the heavens. The Apostle remained with them for a time, confirming them well in the faith; then he departed into the neighboring cities and villages, seeking the salvation of men’s souls.
While Thomas was enlightening the land of India with the preaching of the Gospel, the honorable Dormition of the Mother of God came to pass. All the apostles were caught up from various lands upon clouds and taken to Gethsemane where they were set down before the bier of the most blessed Virgin. At that time, the holy Apostle Thomas was also caught up upon a cloud from India, but he did not arrive by the hour when the body of the most pure Virgin, which had held God, was committed to burial. This was in accordance with God’s providence, that the faithful might receive greater assurance that the Mother of God had been taken up into heaven in the flesh. Thus, as once the Resurrection of Christ was confirmed by Thomas’ unbelief, so did Thomas’ delay firmly establish the truth of the bodily ascent into heaven of the most pure Virgin Mary, the Theotokos. The Apostle arrived only on the third day after her burial and was grieved that he was not present at the burial itself, to escort the holy body of the Mother of his Lord to the grave. Therefore, by the common consent of the holy apostles, the tomb of the Theotokos was opened, that Saint Thomas might behold and venerate the body that had held God and receive consolation in his sorrow. But when the tomb was opened, her body was not to be found; only her shroud remained. Thus it was made manifest that the Mother of God, like her Son, had arisen on the third day and been taken up into heaven in the flesh.
After this, Saint Thomas returned to the lands of India and preached Christ, converting many to the faith by signs and wonders. He went to Mylapore, where he enlightened many, confirming them in the faith through the following miracle.
At a certain place, there lay an enormous log, which neither a multitude of men nor elephants were able to move. Thomas dragged this log with his belt a distance of more than a mile and had it used for the construction of a temple dedicated to the Lord. When the believers saw this, they were strengthened in the faith, and many unbelievers were converted.
The Apostle also worked a second miracle there, which was greater than the first. There was a certain pagan priest who slew his son with his own hand and then accused Saint Thomas of the crime, saying, "Thomas has slain my son!"
Thus a tumult arose among the people, who assembled together and seized Saint Thomas as a murderer, desiring that he be judged and subjected to torture. Since no one could be found to testify that Christ’s Apostle was innocent of the murder, Thomas besought the judge and the people, saying, "Permit me to go and to ask the murdered boy himself to say who killed him"; and so they all went with him to the body of the priest’s son.
Then Thomas lifted up his eyes and prayed to God, and he said to the corpse, "In the name of my Lord Jesus Christ, I command you, 0 youth: tell us who slew you!"
Straightway the dead boy exclaimed, "It was my father who killed me!"
Then all cried out, "Great is the God Whom Thomas proclaims!" Thus the Apostle was set free, but the priest fell into the pit which he dug for Thomas. As a result of this miracle, a very great multitude of people were led to God and were baptized by the Apostle.
Later, the Apostle travelled to lands which were yet further off, to the country of Kalamida, where reigned King Mazdai. There he preached Christ, converting a woman by the name of Sindikia, who was the niece of Migdonia, the wife of Karizius, the King’s favorite. This Sindikia counselled Migdonia to come to the knowledge of the truth and to believe in the one God, the Creator of all things, Whom the Apostle Thomas preached. Migdonia said to Sindikia, "I myself would like to see this man and to hear from him his teaching."
Sindikia replied, "If you desire to see the Apostle of God, my lady, set aside your robes, and clothe yourself in simple raiment, as though you were a poor woman, a commoner, so that you may remain unknown; and come with me."
After Migdonia had done as she was told, she set out with Sindikia. They found the Apostle amid a multitude of poor and simple folk, preaching Christ, and they entered the crowd and gave heed to his teaching. He spoke much of Christ the Lord and taught the people to believe in the Saviour; and he also spoke of death, of judgment, Gehenna, and of the kingdom of heaven. When Migdonia heard all these things, her heart was moved to compunction, and she believed in Christ. After returning home, she pondered on the Apostle’s words constantly and continued to speak with her niece Sindikia about Christ, and she was set afire with fervent love for the Lord. Then she began to shun unbelievers as the foes of God and to avoid all association with them in conversation and at meals. She fled from every worldly pleasure and did not wish to have marital relations with her husband. Therefore, her husband was cast into deep sorrow and tried in every way to make her submit to his will. When he proved unable to do this, he besought King Mazdai to send his consort, Queen Tertiana, to his wife, who was Tertiana’s sister, to convince her not to refuse to cohabit with him carnally. And so the Queen went to her sister Migdonia and asked her why she shunned her husband. Migdonia replied, "Because he is a pagan and an enemy of God and I am a handmaiden of the one true God, Jesus Christ. I do not wish to be defiled by a man who is impure and an unbeliever."
Tertiana wished to learn Who was this Jesus Christ, Whom Migdonia called the true God, and so Migdonia related to her that which the Apostle Thomas preached, exhorting her to believe in the true faith. Tertiana then desired to know of Christ more perfectly and to study the faith fully; she wished to see the Apostle himself and to hear his preaching. Therefore, she took counsel with Migdonia and secretly sent for the Apostle, and when he was admitted into their presence, they entreated him to guide them to the path of truth. He preached Christ to them and enlightened them with the light of faith, washing them in the laver of Baptism and teaching them to keep God’s commandments, and he instructed them in every virtue. They laid up in their hearts everything which was said by the Apostle, and they both resolved to serve God in purity and to consort no more with their husbands, who were unbelievers.
By the power of God, the Apostle worked a multitude of miracles in that place. He healed every infirmity; therefore, not only were many of the common folk led unto Christ but those of the King’s court as well. Azan, one of the sons of the King, saw the signs worked by the Apostle and heard his teaching, and he believed and was baptized by the Apostle. It was the Lord Himself Who worked through the Apostle’s preaching, increasing His Church and magnifying the glory of His name.
On returning from Migdonia, Queen Tertiana continued in prayer and fasting and did not submit to her husband’s desires. The King marvelled at the change which had come to pass in his spouse and said to his friend Karizius, "I had hoped to return your wife to you but instead have lost my own, who has come to act more strangely toward me than yours toward you!"
Then the King and Karizius made diligent inquiry to learn the cause of the change in their wives, who no longer wished to know them. It came to their knowledge that a certain foreigner named Thomas had taught them the Christian faith and had turned them away from consorting with them. Moreover, they learned that Azan, the King’s son, and many of the servants and courtiers of the King’s household, as well as a multitude of commoners without number, had come to believe in Christ through Thomas’ preaching. They became very incensed at Thomas and laid hold of him, casting him into prison.
After this the Apostle was brought before the King to be tried. The King asked him, "Are you a slave or a free man?"
Thomas replied, "I am a slave of Him over Whom you have no authority."
The King said, "I see that you are a wicked slave in flight from your master and that you have come to this land to corrupt the people and to deceive our wives. Tell me, who is your master?"
The Apostle said, "My Master is the Lord of heaven and earth, the God and Creator of all that exists. He has sent me to proclaim His holy name and to convert the people from their error."
Then said the King, "Cease your crafty speech and hearken unto my words, O deceiver. As you have by your wiles turned our wives away from us so that they no longer have relations with us, likewise by your wiles return them to us. If you do not cause our wives to live with us in love as they once did and to consort with us, you will perish wretchedly."
The Apostle replied, "It does not become Christ’s handmaidens to couple with iniquitous men or for the righteous faithful to be defiled by impious unbelievers."
When the King heard this, he ordered that heated plates of iron be brought and that the Apostle’s bare feet be put upon them, but when this was done, water appeared beneath the plates and cooled them. Then Thomas was cast into a fiery furnace, but the next day he emerged therefrom alive and unharmed.
After this Karizius counseled the King thus: "Compel Thomas to worship and to sacrifice unto the god of the sun, that he might thus anger his God, Who preserves him whole amid torment."
In accordance with the King’s command, the Apostle was led before the idol of the sun. When this was done, the idol straight-way melted like wax, and the faithful rejoiced upon witnessing the great power of the God of heaven while numerous unbelievers were converted to the Lord. All the priests of the idols murmured against Thomas for having destroyed their god, and the King was greatly grieved and considered how he might put the Apostle to death. However, he feared the people and his own servants and nobles, many of whom had come to believe in Christ.
The King then took Thomas and went forth from the city with his soldiers, and all thought that the King wished to see Thomas work some sign. But when they had gone about a third of a mile, the King delivered Thomas into the hands of five soldiers, commanding them to go up on a mountain and to run the Apostle through with their spears. Azan, the King’s son, and a nobleman named Siphor hastened after the Apostle, and when they overtook him, they wept over him. Then Thomas asked the soldiers for time to pray, and when he had prayed to the Lord, he ordained Siphor priest and Azan a deacon, enjoining them to care for the faithful and to take care that the Church of Christ increase. After this, the soldiers ran him through with their five spears, and so he died.
Siphor and Azan wept much over the holy Apostle, and they reverently buried his sacred body. After they had buried him, as they sat mourning by the Apostle’s grave, the saint appeared and commanded them to return to the city and to strengthen the brethren in the faith, and with the help of the prayers of the holy Apostle Thomas, they guided the Church of Christ well as they had been instructed by their teacher.
King Mazdai and Karizius tormented their wives for a long time, but they were unable to bend them to their will. When they realized that their wives would prefer to die rather than to submit to them, they were forced to permit them to live according to their own desire. Thus released from the burden of wedlock, the two women lived a life of great abstinence and prayer, laboring for the Lord day and night, and by their virtuous life they brought great benefit to the Church.
Some years later, one of King Mazdai’s sons was possessed by a demon. No one was able to cure him, for the demon within him was extremely fierce. The King grieved greatly over his son and decided to open the grave of the holy Apostle and to take one of the bones from his relics to touch it to his son’s neck, that the boy might be freed from the torment brought on by the demon, for he had heard that Saint Thomas had driven a multitude of demons out of men during his lifetime. After the King conceived this desire, Saint Thomas appeared unto him in a vision and said, "You did not believe me while I was alive: do you think that I shall help you now that I am dead? Renounce your unbelief, and my Lord Jesus Christ will be merciful to you."
This vision increased the King’s desire to disinter the Apostle, and so he went to open the sepulcher. But he did not find the remains of the holy Apostle, for one of the faithful brethren secretly took the holy relics and bore them away to Mesopotamia where he enshrined them in a place of honor. Therefore, the King took earth from that place and applied it to his son, saying, "0 Lord Jesus Christ, if Thou healest my son by the prayers of Thine Apostle Thomas, I will believe in Thee!"
Immediately, the demon departed from the King’s son, and the child was healed. After this King Mazdai believed in Christ and was baptized with all his nobles by the priest Siphor. Great was the joy which filled the hearts of the faithful, for the idols were broken in pieces and their temples razed. In their place churches devoted to the worship of Christ were erected, and the word of God and the holy faith spread everywhere. On receiving Baptism, the King repented of his former sins and asked the help and prayers of all. The presbyter Siphor said to all the brethren, "Pray for King Mazdai, that he receive mercy from our Lord Jesus Christ and the remission of his sins"; and the whole Church made supplication on his behalf. At the place where the body of the holy Apostle had been buried numerous miracles were worked by his prayers, unto the glory of Christ our God, to Whom, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, be honor and worship from us forever. Amen.