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Apr 08

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St. Dismas- Penitent Thief on The Cross

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QXJNIr6tO24

Penitent Thief

 

Saint Dismas

                                                                        

The Good Thief

Died

c. 33 AD
  Golgotha Hill outside Jerusalem

Honored in

Eastern Orthodox   Church
  Catholic Church

Feast

March 25

Attributes

Wearing a loincloth either holding his cross or being   crucified; sometimes, standing in Paradise

Patronage

prisoners, especially condemned prisoners;   undertakers; repentant thieves; Merizo, Guam, San Dimas, Durango

The Penitent thief, also known as the Thief on the Cross or the Good Thief, is an unnamed person mentioned in the Gospel of Luke who was crucified alongside Jesus and asked Jesus to remember him in his kingdom, unlike his companion the Impenitent thief. He is traditionally referred to as “St. Dismas”.

Gospel of Luke

The narrative

Two men were crucified at the same time as Jesus, one on his right hand and one on his left (Matthew 27:38, Mark 15:27-28,32, Luke 23:33, John 19:18), which Mark interprets as fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 53:12. According to Matthew and Mark, respectively, both of the “thieves” mocked Jesus (Matthew 27:44, Mark 15:32); Luke however, mentions that

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.”  The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation?  And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.”

Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen I say to you today you will be with me in Paradise.” 23:39-43

 

 Russian Orthodox icon of The Good Thief in Paradise (Moscow School, c. 1560).

Today… in paradise

Saint Thomas Aquinas: “The words of The Lord (This day….in paradise) must therefore be understood not of an earthly or corporeal paradise, but of that spiritual paradise in which all may be, said to be, who are in the enjoyment of the divine glory. Hence to place, the thief went up with Christ to heaven, that he might be with Christ, as it was said to him: “Thou shalt be with Me in Paradise”; but as to reward, he was in Paradise, for he there tasted and enjoyed the divinity of Christ, together with the other saints.”

Christian traditions

Unnamed

Augustine of Hippo does not name the thief, but wonders if he might not have been baptized at some point.

 According to tradition, the Good Thief was crucified to Jesus’ right hand and the other thief was crucified to his left. For this reason, depictions of the crucifixion often show Jesus’ head inclined to his right, showing his acceptance of the Good Thief. In the Russian Orthodox Church, both crucifixes and crosses are usually made with three bars: the top one, representing the titulus (the inscription that Pontius Pilate wrote and was nailed above Jesus’ head); the longer crossbar on which Jesus’ hands were nailed; and a slanted bar at the bottom representing the footrest to which Jesus’ feet were nailed. The footrest is slanted, pointing up towards the Good Thief, and pointing down towards the other.

According to St. John Chrysostom, the thief dwelt in the desert and robbed or murdered anyone unlucky enough to cross his path. According to Pope Saint Gregory the Great he “was guilty of blood, even his brother’s blood; (fratricide)”.

 The thief’s conversion is sometimes given as an example of the necessary steps one must take to arrive at salvation through Christ: awareness of personal sin, repentance of sin, acceptance of Christ and salvation’s promise of eternal life. Further, the argument is presented that baptism is not necessary for salvation since the thief had no opportunity for it. However, in some church traditions he is regarded as having a “baptism of blood”.

The name Dismas

Only the Gospel of Luke describes one of the thieves as penitent, and even that gospel doesn’t name him. Luke’s unnamed penitent thief was later assigned the name Dismas in the Gospel of Nicodemus, portions of which may be dated to the 4th century. The name “Dismas” was adapted from a Greek word meaning “sunset” or “death.” The other thief’s name is given as Gestas. In Jean Joseph Gaume‘s Life of the Good Thief (Histoire Du Bon Larron French 1868, English 1882), Saint Augustine said; the thief said to Jesus, the child: ” O most blessed of children, if ever a time should come when I shall crave Thy Mercy, remember me and forget not what has passed this day.”  Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich saw the Holy Family “exhausted and helpless”; according to St. Augustine and St. Peter Damian, the Holy Family met Dismas, in these circumstances.

 The apocryphal Arabic Infancy Gospel calls the two thieves Titus and Dumachus, and adds a tale about how Titus (the good one) prevented the other thieves in his company from robbing Mary and Joseph during their Flight into Egypt.

Commemoration

The Catholic Church remembers the Good Thief on 25 March. In the Roman Martyrology, the following entry is given “Commemoration of the Good Thief in Jerusalem who confessed Christ on the cross and deserved to hear from Him these words, “This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise. “

Prayer of The Good Thief

Prayer to Saint Dismas: Glorious Saint Dismas, you alone of all the great Penitent Saints were directly canonized by Christ Himself; you were assured of a place in Heaven with Him “this day” because of the sincere confession of your sins to Him in the tribunal of Calvary and your true sorrow for them as you hung beside Him in that open confessional; you who by the direct sword thrust of your love and repentance did open the Heart of Jesus in mercy and forgiveness even before the centurion’s spear tore it asunder; you whose face was closer to that of Jesus in His last agony, to offer Him a word of comfort, closer even than that of His Beloved Mother, Mary; you who knew so well how to pray, teach me the words to say to Him to gain pardon and the grace of perseverance; and you who are so close to Him now in Heaven, as you were during His last moments on earth, pray to Him for me that I shall never again desert Him, but that at the close of my life I may hear from Him the words He addressed to you: “This day thou shalt be with Me in Paradise.” Amen.[12]

 

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