THE MARTYRDOM OF ST. THOMAS, Apostle of India by Peter Paul Ruben (1637 – 1639)
Tradition has not been kind to St. Thomas, an intriguing apostle of Christ. Tarnished for his thick-headed insistence of a personal sensory verification of the Resurrection, Thomas has invariably inherited the role of a doubter. But through his frank scepticism emerged the undeniable confession of ‘My Lord and My God’ and an inextinguishable spark of faith that set the world on fire!
But what happened to Thomas after his famous episode of incredulity? Was that the season finale? Well, the ‘Acta Thomae’, a document principally concerning the saint’s life, takes this story of faith forward. Legend states that in the act of distribution, India fell to the lot of St. Thomas. However, the apostle refused to venture into this foreign land. The ‘never giving-up’ Christ then appeared in a supernatural way to Abban, an envoy of the Indian King Gundafor. Abban invited Thomas to serve his master as an architect. Thomas agreed and set sail to India.
This royally funded project involved building a palace for the King in the Roman style of art. But the gutsy Thomas distributed the entrusted treasury among the poor. King Gundafor was furious and had the saint imprisoned. Later he realised that the apostle’s intention was not to build a palace on earth where ‘moth and rust destroy and robbers break in and steal’ (Matthew 6: 19-20). Instead Thomas desired to build an eternal palace in heaven through the noble acts of charity and love. The King had Thomas released and freed from trial. As the saint went about the country preaching the Good News, his faith was once again brought to task by King Misdai, who condemned him to death.
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