The Agape Vespers, which close the first day of the Feast of Feasts, put forward the Gospel reading of John 20: 19 – 25. In this passage, Jesus appears to the disciples in his glorified body. He commissions them as his apostles, exhales the Holy Spirit to them, and then is gone. Thomas was absent. Upon his return the others declare to him their experience, and proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. But, Thomas doubts: “Unless I cast my finger into the nail wholes in his hands, and cast my hand into his side [wound from the roman’s spear], I shall not believe” (John 20: 25). His doubts will last only another week:
And after eight days his disciples were inside and Thomas was with them. While the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, “Peace to you.” Then he says to Thomas, “Place your finger here and behold my hands and cast you hand into my side, and do not be faithless, but faithful!” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20: 26 – 28).
The third Sunday of Pascha commemorates the women who came to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his corpse. These are the Myrrh Bearing Women. While wondering who would role away the stone from the door of the tomb for them, they witness an astounding site: the stone has been removed, a “young man” clothed in a white robe sits and addresses them: “Do not marvel! You seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16: 6). Expecting the ordinary in a tomb, they encounter the extraordinary.
Rare is the person who cannot appreciate the beauty of nature, especially in its wild, untouched forms and settings. It is blindness when the beauty of a creature cannot be appreciated. Such beauty exists in the flower , the forest, the mountain, the stream, and the animal. There is the harsh beauty of the desert, and, I suppose, of the arctic as well. Nature’s gifts of beauty are to be found in all climates, temperate and tropical. Just step outside, open your eyes and marvel at the creation around you!
There is also a “natural” beauty that is created by human endeavor. An idea or vision can transform the natural landscape of creation into works of art. Here, we have the cultivation of something previously barren, or wild, into something habitable and enjoyable, and equally pleasing to the senses.