Last year I took a class to determine my Enneagram number. I’m an old hand at Myers-Briggs, with its 16 types, but this nine-number circle with all sorts of arrows going back and forth was a new system for me. Thankfully the teacher, Suzanne Stabile, had a teaching style I understood well. It turns out we are the same type.
Some of us reside in the heart (or feeling) triad, as Suzanne and I do, and some in the head (or thinking) triad. My guess is Thomas would belong in the third triad.
Caravaggio’s painting depicts the story of the apostle’s incredulity the way most of us remember it, but not exactly the way it is presented in John 20:27–28. In the narrative Jesus invites Thomas to “put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” But the narrator does not state that Thomas actually did what Christ invited him to do; rather, Thomas responds with a confession: “My Lord and my God!” Caravaggio, however, graphically displays Thomas’s forefinger entering the gash in Christ’s side. Christ guides Thomas’s fingers into the wound with his left hand, while his right hand pulls back the drapery that covers his chest. Christ’s calm expression contrasts with the intense and surprised reactions of Thomas and the other two disciples (the figure on the left is most likely Peter). The dramatic tenebrist light further accentuates the moment in which Thomas encounters the bodily wounds of the risen Christ. Caravaggio’s figures, painted in earth tones, are not glorified but are representative of the common man. This scene is a favorite of all those who “have not seen but yet believe.”
Before the dust had settled from the tramping boots, he’d appeared. Eyes beheld him to their confusion but when he breathed upon them they remembered the spring green hills of Galilee, the cool evening air scented of olive, laurel, clematis, myrtle. A peace they could not reckon. A dove called.
Left to the silence, they could hardly recognize themselves. How strangely their voices sounded and what unlikely things they must have said.
My father died about three years ago. As May comes around, the azaleas spring to life, and I remember my father's passing. Just as sure as the tulips and dogwood blossom, my mind wanders back to my dad. Even when I begin to open up to these strange and wonderful stories of Easter, struggling with the notions of recognition and revelation, I think about the last few months of my father's life.