Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Penitent Thief: Saint Dismas

By Father Gordon J. MacRae

Who was Saint Dismas, the Penitent Thief, crucified to the right of Jesus at Calvary? His brief Passion Narrative appearance has deep meaning for Christians...

Like the Magi I wrote of in “Upon a Midnight Not So Clear,” the name tradition gives to the Penitent Thief appears nowhere in Sacred Scripture. Dismas is named in a Fourth Century apocryphal manuscript called the “Acts of Pilate.” The text is similar to, and likely borrowed from, Saint Luke’s Gospel:
“And one of the robbers who were hanged, by name Gestas, said to him: ‘If you are the Christ, free yourself and us.’ And Dismas rebuked him, saying: ‘Do you not even fear God, who is in this condemnation? For we justly and deservedly received these things we endure, but he has done no evil.’”
What the Evangelists tell us of those crucified with Christ is limited. In Saint Matthew’s Gospel (27:38) the two men are simply “thieves.” In Saint Mark’s Gospel (15:27), they are also thieves, and all four Gospels describe their being crucified “one on the left and one on the right” of Jesus... (continued)

Painting: Christ and the Good Thief
1566 | Oil on canvas | 1370 x 1490 mm
Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna
Titian (Vecellio, Tiziano) | 1485-1576

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