[caption id="attachment_172004" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] By Caravaggio - http://www.christusrex.org/www2/art/images/carav10.jpg, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons[/caption]
It is from the Gospel of John where we get the phrase ‘doubting Thomas’, when Thomas does not believe the other apostles when they say Christ has returned. As we see in this artwork, Thomas only believes the truth after seeing Christ with his own eyes and after touching His wounds.
The Incredulity of St. Thomas was painted by the Italian artist Caravaggio in 1601. At the time, Europe was feeling the aftereffects of the Protestant Reformation, and had almost entirely converted to this new doctrine. The Roman See used art to remind people of the beauty and power of the Catholic Church, all the more poignant with this artwork’s theme.
The effect the Protestant Reformation had on the world cannot be understated, just as our world is changing before our eyes. Just like Thomas, we are full of doubt and fear – and the arrival of good news can seem impossible.
But that is beauty and power of Christ – He allows Thomas to inspect the wound. If that is the proof he needs to believe, Christ will give him that. Belief is different for each person, and Jesus does not judge us for this. He loves us regardless of any doubt we may have.
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In the artwork, Jesus guides Thomas’ hand without judgement or criticism. The artist goes so far as to have Thomas’ fingers inside the wound on Christ’s side – proving without a doubt that Christ is before him in the flesh. And despite their previous admonishment of Thomas’ doubt, two apostles look over his shoulder with the same amazement. Christ after all, is a teacher – and the best teacher knows that students learn differently and have different needs.
Belief is a lifelong journey, and in moments of hardship it can be easy to feel doubt. The important thing to remember is that Christ is leading us, and if needed, will take our hand and show us the proper way.
Copyright 2020 Caleigh McCutcheon
About the Author
Caleigh McCutcheon is the curator at the Museum of Family Prayer in North Easton, MA. She has a BA in English from Stonehill College and a MA in Art History from Glasgow University. Her Master’s thesis focused on the complexity and lasting power of the Pieta image in Christian art. She considers art to be one of the most powerful forms of prayer.