COVID-19

COVID-19 Relief Fund

Make a Donation

Weekly Resources, Activities, Lessons, and Crafts

April 26, 2020

Sunday of St. Thomas

Below, you’ll find a variety of discussion questions, activities, lessons, and crafts arranged by age group.

Start your study by reading the Gospel for Sunday’s Divine Liturgy: John 20:19–31

On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them: "Peace be with you." When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him: "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them: "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe."

Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said: "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name.

 

Discussion Questions, Activities, Lessons, and Crafts

For the entire family

Music: “Hymn-Singing for Young People” from the National Forum of Greek Orthodox Church Musicians

  • We continue singing “Christ is risen” all the way until the Ascension – check out this introduction to the hymn and music.
  • This page also presents a variety of sources for listening and singing experiences with Greek Orthodox hymns, especially for youth. Compiled for use at home, Church School, and during youth activities.

For children of all ages

Lesson and craft:  “The Paschal Season,” adapted from Let Us Live Orthodoxy, vol. 3, by Pres. Georget and Fr. Dean Photos

Lesson and craft: “The Theotokos of the Life-giving Spring,” adapted from Let Us Live Orthodoxy, vol. 3, by Pres. Georget and Fr. Dean Photos

  • Don’t overlook this beautiful commemoration on Bright Friday!

For older children, teens, and beyond

Video: Live the Word #30: “How Should the Church Deal With Doubt?”

Video discussion questions:

  • We normally associate Thomas with doubt. Is that really fair?
  • What does that mean about our doubts?

Video: Be the Bee #32: “Faith and Doubt” 

Video discussion questions:

  • Read the story of Thomas’ doubts about the Resurrection of Christ, John 20:24–29. How did Jesus react to Thomas’ doubts?
  • When have you had doubts about your faith? What were those doubts? How did you resolve them, or how are you working to resolve them?
  • How has working through doubts helped you grow as a person?
  • Give an example that shows how faith and knowledge are different.

Preschool

Coloring sheet: St. Thomas Sunday, from St. Paul the Apostle Orthodox Church (page 1 of the PDF)

Elementary school

Discussion questions for Gospel reading:

  • After Jesus was crucified and then resurrected on the third day, he went and visited his apostles. Which apostle was not there? (St. Thomas)
  • Eight days later, all of the apostles gathered again. What did Thomas do after he saw Christ? (He touched the wounds on Jesus’ side where he was pierced and on his hands where the nails had been, and he believed!)
  • Although we cannot physically touch Christ as Thomas did, how do we experience him every Sunday? (Through Holy Communion)

Craft: Proclaiming Our Faith

Have children create and decorate signs that say “Christ is risen!” to display in your home. These signs can include or take the shape of crosses, Easter eggs, or other seasonal items. The Paschal season is a time to proclaim our faith in the Resurrection, even though, like Thomas, we did not witness it ourselves.

Activity: Trust Fall

Set up a mini “trust fall” by having a person cross their arms and fall backwards without looking, into the arms of the person behind them waiting. This would work best with a parent being the one to catch the falling person.

Ask: How did you know that your parent would catch you?

Explain: This is similar to having Faith. We can’t see God, but we know that he is there! Remind them that Christ said: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe."

Middle school

Discussion questions for Gospel reading:

  • What did Jesus show the apostles when he appeared to them? (He showed them his the wounds in his hands and his side)
  • How would you have reacted if you were one of the apostles? (Answers will vary)
  • What happened when Thomas was with the apostles and Jesus eight days later? (He touched the wounds on Jesus’ side where he was pierced and on his hands where the nails had been)
  • Why did he need to do that? (He didn’t believe until he saw it for himself)
  • Have you ever felt that way? What did you do? (Answers will vary)
  • Although we cannot physically touch Christ as Thomas did, how do we experience him every Sunday? (Through Holy Communion)

Action item for the week:

  • Retell the story from this Sunday’s Gospel lesson as if it was in the news, including interviews with Thomas and other disciples. What do you think they were thinking about these events?

High school

Discussion questions for Gospel reading:

  • How did the apostles react to Christ coming? How did Thomas react? (The apostles were glad, but Thomas doubted, until he touched Jesus’ wounds)
  • What does it mean when Jesus said: “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”? (Answers may vary)
  • As Christians, can it be hard to believe without seeing? (Answers may vary)
  • Christ reveals himself to us in many ways when we need it most. What are these events called? (Miracles)
  • Although we cannot physically touch Christ as Thomas did, how do we experience him every Sunday? (Through Holy Communion)

Journal topic:

  • Think about a time when you doubted something from someone you knew well. How did you overcome that doubt?

Action item for the week:

  • It can be easy to focus on our doubts, struggles, or the things that we don’t have. This week, challenge yourself to look for evidence of God’s love and blessings in your life, no matter how small it may seem.

Young Adult

Bible Study:

Adult

Article:

Exploring the Iconography of the Paschal Season

In the coming weeks, we will provide you ways to examine and reflect upon the icons that the Church brings out for veneration each Sunday during the Paschal season. The flipbook link will provide the images that you will need for these weeks.

Overview

Icons function in many ways for the faithful. Centuries ago, icons were called “books for the illiterate” because they depict visually what is otherwise communicated with words and texts. Icons tell the story of an event, but they do more than that. They highlight certain ideas about the story, offering the Church’s interpretation of the story, so that the viewer can begin to “see with the eyes of the Church.” Assisting in that interpretation, naturally, are any hymns from the Church and patristic and other writings about the event.

The Paschal Icons

The culmination of Lent and Holy Week was, of course, the celebration of the Resurrection of Christ in the liturgy we now celebrate on Holy Saturday morning. Historically, it was at the Resurrection Liturgy that catechumens were baptized and welcomed into the Church.

These catechumens—all of them adults—had completed the final preparatory steps in the weeks of Great Lent and were now members of the Church. But their education was not over yet. In the weeks following their baptism, they entered into a period of education called mystagogia; that is, the mystery of faith in Christ, the mystery of baptism, was explained to them. In fact, we can rightly think of all Christian education as mystagogia for, as Fr. Alexander Schmemann has pointed out, “religious education is nothing else but the disclosing of that which happened to man when he was born again through water and Spirit, and was made a member of the Church” (Liturgy and Life, p. 11).

The liturgical life of the Church in these coming weeks should be seen through the lens of baptism. As we proceed through the icons of the Paschal season, we will notice two recurring themes: the presence of water and the nature of faith in Christ. For the newly baptized, these themes were meant to unpack their new faith and to reveal the effects of baptism and the Resurrection on their lives.

We will offer a study of icons for the following Sundays: the Sunday of St. Thomas, the Sunday of the Myrrh-Bearing Women, the Sunday of the Paralytic, the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman, the Sunday of the Blind Man, the Sunday of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council. The Feast of Mid-Pentecost is celebrated between the Sunday of the Paralytic and the Sunday of the Samaritan Woman.

For ourselves, this is an opportunity to reflect, renew and recommit ourselves to our baptismal faith, and to see the implications of our Paschal faith, our belief in the Resurrection, for our own lives.

Artistic Points: Icon for the Sunday of St. Thomas

In the icon, Christ stands in front of a closed door. He has appeared miraculously. He is pulling aside his garments so Thomas can touch the wound in his side. The rest of the Apostles are standing nearby, watching in amazement. Peter, in particular, is very recognizable, with his curly hair.

Just as a point for comparison, Caravaggio (1571–1610), an Italian Renaissance painter, famously captured the same scene. The Renaissance brought about naturalism in art. Caravaggio is noted for his close physical observations in his work. Even more graphic than the icon, look at how Thomas literally puts his finger in the still-open wound.

Some Questions to Consider

  • As you look at the icon and consider Thomas’s demand to see the wounds with his own eyes, how do you respond? Was he being disrespectful? Why didn’t he believe the accounts of the other disciples?
  • When you hear the accounts of the Resurrection, what questions do they raise for you?
  • How do you respond to questions of doubt in matters of faith?
  • How do you respond to Christ’s answer: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29)?

From the Fathers

Re-read John 20:24–28. First of all, it’s interesting to note that this account only appears in the Gospel of John.

Gregory the Great: “It was not an accident that that particular disciple was not present. The divine mercy ordained that a doubting disciple should, by feeling in his Master, the wound of the flesh, heal in us the wounds of unbelief. The unbelief of Thomas is more profitable to our faith than the belief of the other disciples. For the touch by which he is brought to believe confirms our minds in belief, beyond all question.”

Cyril of Alexandria: “Participation in the divine mysteries, in addition to filling us with divine blessedness, is a true confession and memorial of Christ’s dying and rising again for us and for our sake. Let us, therefore, after touching Christ’s body, avoid all unbelief in him as utter ruin and rather be found well grounded in the full assurance of faith.”

Cyril of Alexandria: “Christ had to be patient with Thomas when he said he would not believe and with the other disciples too when they thought they were seeing a ghost. Because of his desire to convince the whole world, he most willingly showed them the marks of the nails and the wound in his side. Because he wanted those who needed such signs as a support for their faith to have no possible reason for doubt, he even took food, although he had no need for it … But when anyone accepts what he had not seen, believing on the word of his teacher, the faith by which he honors the one his teacher proclaims to him is worthy of great praise. Blessed, therefore, is everyone who believes the message of the holy apostles …”

A Reflection on the Passage

This reminds us that our faith is an “empiric” faith and one that is not afraid of close scrutiny. We know the story. Thomas was not present at the first appearance of the resurrected Christ to his disciples. He demands to see him first hand himself and to be able to touch his wounds. Without that, he will not believe. He is “Doubting Thomas.”

Thomas stands in for all of us. We were not there at that moment in time. It can be difficult to believe in the reality of the Resurrection. So, even Christ himself reassures his followers.

One of the more dramatic moments in the Russian Paschal tradition is the singing of “We have seen Christ’s resurrection.” It is usually set to a powerful melody. In the Greek practice, it is usually read. But these words are heard at every Sunday Orthros following the reading of the Resurrection Gospel. In hearing the story, we can claim that we have seen, we have experienced, the resurrected Christ; we are there.


Corresponding items that can be purchased on Orthodox Marketplace: