A Basic Q&A About Thomas Sunday

Fr. Seraphim Holland, rector of the St. Nicholas Church in McKinney, Texas, answers ten questions on the first Sunday after Pascha—Thomas Sunday, also known as “Antipascha.”
Question: When is the Sunday of St. Thomas? Why? On the Sunday of St. Thomas, two hymns normally sung in Sunday matins are not sung. What are these hymns? Why are they not sung?

Answer: St Thomas Sunday is the Second Sunday of Pascha, or, said another way, the first Sunday after the Sunday of Pascha.

The Gospel text for the day gives a clue as to why the celebration is at this time: Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you (Jn. 20:19).

But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe (Jn. 20:24-26).

And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you... (Jn. 20:27).

On the Sunday of St. Thomas, the Resurrectional Evlogitaria sung before the Hymns of ascent which precede the Gospel, and immediately after either the Polyeleos or 118th psalm in normal times) are not sung, and neither is the “Magnificat” (“My soul magnifies the Lord...,” which is usually sung between the eighth and ninth ode of the matins canon). These hymns are omitted because the feast of St. Thomas Sunday is a “Feast of the Lord,” and it supersedes EVERYTHING from the normal Resurrectional service, just as Nativity, or another feast of the Lord would.

Question: A Hymn normally sung once in Sunday matins is sung three times, in the matins for St. Thomas Sunday, and until when? What is the hymn?

Answer: “Having beheld the resurrection” (certainly very familiar to everyone who has sung the Paschal Hours in lieu of morning prayers during Bright week, since it is also sung three times then), is normally sung once in Sunday matins, just after the Gospel is read. During the Paschal season, until and including the Sunday preceding Ascension Thursday, it is sung three times.

Question: How many days after the resurrection were required for Thomas to believe? Why did he not originally believe?

Answer: According to the Gospel of St. John, Jesus appeared unto the Apostles the first time on the evening of Pascha, with Thomas being absent, then the second time eight days later, with him being present. He originally did not believe because of the incredible reality of the Resurrection. He needed to see the evidence.

Question: How does the Holy Spirit, through the services characterize Thomas’ unbelief?

Answer: The church characterizes St. Thomas’ unbelief as “good”, because it led to a greater manifestation of the reality of Christ's resurrection in the flesh:

“As the disciples were in doubt, / the Savior came on the eighth day / to where they were gathered and granted them peace, / and cried unto Thomas: / Come, O Apostle, and feel the palms in which they fastened the nails. / O good unbelief of Thomas, / which hath led the hearts of the faithful to knowledge! / Hence, he cried out with fear: // O my Lord and my God, glory be to Thee” (Sticheron from Lord I have cried, vespers for St. Thomas Sunday).

Fr. Seraphim Holland

Source: http://www.orthodox.net/questions/thomas_sunday_1.html