Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Century or Centuries (02/17/11)
TITLE: Inspired by a Steeple
By Shanta Richard
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As part of the renovation, the walls of the hallways were covered with maps and charts containing the information about St.Thomas and the Basilica. I was amazed to read that only three churches were built on the tombs of the apostles of Christ – St. Peter’s in Rome, St. James in Spain and St .Thomas in India.
During the first century the early Christians were persecuted by the Romans and they dispersed to other countries to preserve their faith and to propagate the gospel. Thus it was that the apostle Thomas left Judah and travelled east to Parthia, Persia and India.
In A.D52 he arrived in Cochin a sea port in western India. Here he established a Christian community and built a church. They called themselves Mar Thoma Christians and their descendents still live in that area. The apostle then travelled across the Indian peninsula and reached Mylapur, a small town in Madras, on the eastern coast. Here he built a church. His gospel message was well received in this place and many Hindus became Christians.
However, the pious Hindus were enraged by his popularity and the growing number of Christians. They believed that this new religion was taking over and destroying their faith and culture. One day in A.D.72 they found St.Thomas on a hill praying on his knees and speared him to death. To this day that place is called St.Thomas mount. The Christians buried him in the church he had built and continued in their faith.
Centuries later, the Portuguese missionaries came to India and were overjoyed to find these Christians. They enlarged the small church and built the present Basilica.
As I stood there reading the ancient history of the shrine, a thrill ran through my whole being. I was so blessed to be standing over the bones of one of the early martyrs of Christianity. It was then that I was inspired to study the history of the early church.
I started by reading the New Testament. Everything that is recorded in the twenty seven books of this part of the Bible occurs within the first century of the church’s history. Commencing from the birth of Christ it describes His preaching, His miracles, His atoning death on the cross, His victorious resurrection and ascension to heaven, the gift of the Holy Spirit, the persecution of Christians, teachings of His disciples and the visions of John’s revelations of the Second coming of Christ, of Judgment Day and of Life everlasting. All happened within the course of one century. I think that is amazing.
Twenty-one centuries later the impact of that first century on the human race had not lost its power. Like the torch-bearer of the Olympic Games, the message of Salvation has been passed on by the dedicated fore-runners of our faith to those who followed from generation to generation, from century to century.
As I stood under the shadow of the steeple of the Basilica of St. Thomas, I realized that I was also a torch- bear in that race through the centuries. I too was responsible to pass my faith to my children and their children, from generation to generation, from century to century. I know I would never be able to do it on my own. I knelt down in that sacred place and asked God to give me strength, power, courage and wisdom to be a faithful torch- bearer.
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