Thomas Christians

Malankara Church BronxAlthough we know that Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds in Asia and Africa, we tend to think of the churches there are results of several centuries of Western missionary efforts. There is truth in this, but it is not the whole story. There are Asian and African churches whose history goes back to the very beginning of the church.
For example, in the Book of Acts in Chapter eight we see an official of the Ethiopian court reading the prophesies of the Messiah in the Old Testament. He doesn’t quite understand them. But God tells St. Phillip, one of the first deacons, to approach this Ethiopian official and tell them that these prophesies have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. After some discussion St. Phillip baptizes the man Ethiopian Orthodox Atlanta GAon the spot. This newly converted Christian goes back to Ethiopia and spreads the faith there. We don’t know much about the early history of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church but it clearly has traditions going back to the apostolic age.
On the first Sunday after Pascha we read the story of the encounter of St. Thomas the Apostle with the risen Christ, after Saint Thomas had expressed some doubts in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. According to early and wide spread Christian tradition, St. Thomas went to spread the Gospel in India, especially in the area of Kerala and many people in that region converted to Christianity as a result of St. Thomas’ preaching. These Christians refer to themselves as Thomas Christians. In recent years mMalankara Church Bronxany Indian Christians have moved to the United States and we can see many Indian Christian Churches in many parts of the United States, including Long Island. There are Indian Orthodox seminarians attending Orthodox seminaries in this country. The example of the Ethiopian Christians and the Thomas Christians reminds us that Orthodox Christianity is not simply a Western religion, but rather has a message for all peoples, whether they and their ancestors converted to Christianity in the first or twenty-first centuries.

Troparion — Tone 7

From the sealed tomb, Thou didst shine forth O Life! / Through closed doors Thou didst
come to Thy disciples, O Christ God! / Renew in us, through them, an upright spirit, / By
the greatness of Thy mercy, O Resurrection of all!

Kontakion — Tone 8

Thomas touched Thy life-giving side with an eager hand, O Christ God, / When Thou didst come to Thine apostles through closed doors. / He cried out with all: Thou art my Lord and my God!

Fr. John