My friend Mr Ravi took this picture of John Fale and me at the Basilica of ST. Thomas in Chennai. He is close to the ocean. Here is a story from the Chennai Newspaper. This is after the Tsunami of 2004…..
The tsunami waves have subsided, but a miracle is being talked about across Chennai. It is the story of how St Thomas’ miraculous post kept the invading waves away, sparing the newly renovated Santhome Cathedral.
The Cathedral, the world’s second basilica built on an apostle’s tomb, has been giving shelter to hundreds of tsunami victims ever since the waves ravaged many buildings across the coast.
But even though the killer tsunami waves devastated the Chennai coast, Father Lawrence Raj, the parish priest of the Santhome Cathedral Basilica, says “the sea did not touch our church.”
The reason? “We believe the miraculous post of St Thomas prevented the sea waters from entering the church,” says Father Raj.
The church that sits at the site where St. Thomas, one of the 12 Apostles of Jesus Christ, was buried after his death in the year 72 is located a few metres from the sea. While all the buildings on either side of the church were hit by the tsunami waves, the Santhome Cathedral remained unaffected.
Local people now say it is the St Thomas’ miraculous post that has kept the sea away on December 26.
According to Father Raj, the legend is that when St Thomas planted the post at the top of the steps leading to the Cathedral, he said the sea would not pass that point.
The priest saw from the terrace of church the angry sea in action, as it surged across the road and flooded the huts in front of St Thomas’ post, which is an innocuous looking log of wood, mounted on a cement pedestal.
The belief goes that a village in the Mylapore area was flooded when a huge tree trunk fell across the river. The local king brought a royal pachyderm to lug it away, but the task seemed impossible.
Then, according to legend, St Thomas came along, removed the girdle from his waist and handed it to a bystander and asked him to yank the log with it. He did so and the log was moved easily.
A mural in the Cathedral museum illustrates this incident. Father Raj says the current post is believed to be from that same log of wood.
Hundreds of homeless survivors who have been staying in the church ever since the tragedy hit them have prayed to St Thomas for saving them.
“It is St Thomas who has saved me. This church was untouched by the waters because of the miraculous power of the St Thomas post,” said K Sebastiraj, a fisherman who sought shelter in the Santhome Cathedral.
At the epicenter of the destruction was Banda Aceh on the Northern tip of the Island of Sumatra. There the waves went to the top step of the Grand Mosque and then receded. This too was seen as a miracle. Why was the mosque spared and why did the tsunami happnen. The mosque was spared according to the Muslim clerics to remind people of the importance of “Sharia Law” and the tsunami happened because the Achehnese were not devout enough, the women not covered enough, and the foreign visitors drink beer, (see Robert Kaplan, “Monsoon”, Random House 2010 page 261).
The disciples according to Mark 6, terrified that Jesus was a ghost as he came across the water were terrified and “they did not understand about the loaves and their hearts were hardened”. They had participated in the feeding of the 5000 and had seen a lot of miracles by this time and they regarded them with suspicion and confusion.
What think Ye of miracles? I contend that they are all around us. Our Baptismal life is a miracle. Baptized into the death of Christ we are new creations. In that merciful washing we are free to lead a merciful life. Do we see that? Do we view one another in the church as brothers and sisters or as objects? Members of the body or pagans in need of conversion?
Absolution is a miracle? We are spoken free to speak others free. Do we see that or do we believe that absolution is the property of a priestly class that doles it out or withholds it as they will?
The Lord’s Supper is a miracle. We are given Christ whole and entire so that we can give ourselves whole and entire to our neighbor. The fellowship that receives this is one “loaf and one cake”. Do we believe this or are we individual operators and it’s a “me and Jesus” thing?
Are we of the type that talks about the “efficacy of the means of grace” and yet denies their power?
Do we understand about the loaves or is our heart hardened?