This is the night.
Good Friday is a tough day to live through. On one hand, it is a celebration of what Christ did for us, but on the other hand, what he had to endure was so traumatic, that celebration just doesn’t seem the right thing to do at all.
So we starve ourselves to help unify with His suffering if even just a little while the somberness of the cross brings us to a deep sense of melancholy. Yet it was this moment that defines us, not the resurrection.
This is easy to miss. The resurrection is not the prime moment, it is the proof that the prime moment was the real thing. It is because Jesus rose that we know that the cross was the real deal, and it is the proof that our sufferings will end in our own resurrection.
So today we adore the cross. We hold it up on high as we walk through our Lord’s passion. There is no Mass, because we have no Christ. How can a priest act In Persona Christi if our Lord is not there? Today it almost feels odd for the priest to even preside at the service, I almost feel it would be deeper to see him sitting in the pews with us, the power given to him by Christ stripped bare for the day, as Christ was stripped bare. (Don’t get any crazy ideas, the new rubrics demand that the priest preside at this service!)
Today we adore the cross.
I wanted to share a thought. We, as human beings, are enveloped in time. We live and breathe time like a fish breathes water. We simply cannot even imagine timelessness. When we think of eternal life, we tend to think in infinite life, a life that goes on forever. That is simply not so. Time is an invention of God’s for our benefit, it is not part of the true nature of reality. Eternity is being all places at once, not a stream of consciousness that reaches into infinity.
I know, it’s a little out there, but there is one aspect to this reality that is really important today. When God looks at the world, he does not see yesterday as separate from today. He sees them both at the same “time”. So from an eternal perspective, He sees you and I going about our lives and at the same time He sees Christ hanging on a tree in the desert.
The wood of the cross we hold up is not just a symbol. It is in a very real sense, truly the wood of the cross that Christ is hanging on in the eternal now of God. It may not be made of the same kind of wood, and it may not have the stains of His Blood, but His cross reaches out through eternity, and touches us where we stand.
This is why Christ was able to suffer for all, because as God He is here in all times and all places. He truly took the sin you committed yesterday and held them on the cross. He was and is there. The immensity of this act simply staggers the mind.
As you come up today to kiss, touch, or fall to your knees before His cross, know that He is hanging there now, looking down upon you. If you cannot make it too a service today, when you get home, I want you to pull that crucifix off the wall, and look closely at His wounds and thank Him for each one.
Well, it will be tonight anyways.
First things first, yesterday I talked about what I feel is an abuse. I want you to put that out of your head. Forget about it. Don’t let it mess with one of the most beautiful Masses of the year!
Tonight is Holy Thursday, and only the Eater Vigil can rival it in sheer mass of content. I am flat out amazed at how much happen in this one single, regular length Mass.
Let’s dive right in.
Holy Thursday has two main themes, first, the Last Supper, and second, Christ in the garden of Gethsemene.
The Lord’s Supper, the first Mass was a jam packed night. The night was already Holy. This was the Passover, the great feast of the Jewish people, that night which every man, woman, and child renewed the memory of their freedom from slavery. This was the night they relived the sacrifice of unblemished lambs that ransomed them from death. This night did not happen in a vacuum.
Christ knew the time had finally been fulfilled, and all that His life had worked towards was finally being set in motion. He himself had sent off Judas. He knew His time was running out, and he had to finish what He had come for. He must have felt rushed, and yet, time must have slowed to a standstill as he tried to take in every last moment with those who were his friends.
It could not just be a walk down memory lane though. Jesus had work to do, and he did not waste any time. He knew he could not leave us alone. So He gave us Himself that night. Before he was even hanging on the cross, His Blood was already in the Cup. He could feel His own body breaking as He broke the bread that had become Himself. What pain He must have felt, what anguish.
I have no doubt that the apostles had no idea what was going on. Here is Christ, already suffering, already broken, already giving Himself, and already those who loved Him did not recognize Him. It truly humbles me. I must admit, there are times when I do not receive Him with full attention. Times when I let my daily cares distract me from my Savior that has come to me in bread and wine. This night reminds me that I am not alone in this.
He could not leave us alone, so this night He gave the most humble gift anyone has ever given. He gave to His apostles power over Himself. This night, He created a new priesthood, wrapped in service. To show what service was truly like, he gave our predecessors two examples. First, He took the form of a slave (not a servant, a slave) and washed their feet. With this act He showed even greater humility by putting power over Himself in the hands of men who had the stain of original sin. They could now call Him down at will, changing bread and wine into His very Body and Blood.
These men, these lowly, foolish, arrogant, normal men now had the power to bring God Himself out of the high heavens. This humility is completely unthinkable. I am awed that in the time of His greatest duress, this is what Christ was capable of.
Tonight we will ring the bells with all our might in thanksgiving for this gift, but alas, all too soon they go quiet.
After Christ had given His greatest gift, fully spent, we relive His anguish. He gave everything He had, down to the last drop, and all we could do was yawn and fall asleep. Several times he asked us that we just stand with Him, just be with Him in His terror, and we were bored.
As you leave Mass tonight, you will leave in silence. You may be able to stay with Him a few hours in adoration, but sooner or later you will go home and go to bed. You have a big day tomorrow, after all. So do I.
As you fall asleep tonight, remember, we have not changed much in the last 2000 years. We still sleep, while He sweats blood.
“He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist” John 13:4-5
This post is not being written so that you can run up to your clergy and tell them they are screwing everything up. I promise you, that is simply the last thing they need this week. In truth, I should have posted this a month ago so that you would have time to let your liturgy planning commission or whatever you have know about this teaching in as charitable a way as possible.
So many people are confused about the Mandatum, or as it is more commonly known, the Washing of Feet. We have seen it done in so many ways that we are rightly confused. A major part of our confusion is a misunderstanding of what is going on here.
Peter was a bit confused at first as well, and we can see that in his response in John’s Gospel.
“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”” John 13:6-8
Yes, there is an image of service here. It is very apparant ond obvious. To be first in the Kingdom of God, you must become a slave to all. Yup, we seem to get that just fine, and I am oh so glad, because it is the primary message here, but there is another thing happening here that people often miss, and I’m not surprised. The Jewish people were a “People of the Book”, and knew their scripture far better than we know our own. So when Peter is confused as to what is going on, he too only has the view of the servant, but Jesus sets him straight right away.
“Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.”” John 13:8
“Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.”” John 13:9
“Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.”” John13:10
Yes the Mandatum is primarily about charity. It is the idea of service that is front and foremost. So please, be charitable when you are bringing this up to your friends and clergy!
Butit is also about linking the Old Covenant priesthood to the priesthood of the New Covenant. It is about tying that priesthood to the angels, about making it divine. It’s not about service alone.
So yes, the Church is actually serious when it says in it’s rubrics,
“Depending on pastoral circumstance, the washing of feet follows the homily. The men who have been chosen (viri selecti) are led by the ministers to chairs prepared at a suitable place. Then the priest (removing his chasuble if necessary) goes to each man. With the help of the ministers he pours water over each one’s feet and dries them.”
Just so you know, the United States Bishops spoke about this in 1987, and I wanted you to read it so that you knew that while the practice is suspect in my opinion, the adopted practice of washing both men and women’s feet is not necessarily illicit.
“….Because the gospel of the mandatum read on Holy Thursday also depicts Jesus as the “Teacher and Lord” who humbly serves his disciples by performing this extraordinary gesture which goes beyond the laws of hospitality, the element of humble service has accentuated the celebration of the foot washing rite in the United States over the last decade or more. In this regard, it has become customary in many places to invite both men and women to be participants in this rite in recognition of the service that should be given by all the faithful to the Church and to the world. Thus, in the United States, a variation in the rite developed in which not only charity is signified but also humble service.
While this variation may differ from the rubric of the Sacramentary which mentions only men (“viri selecti”), it may nevertheless be said that the intention to emphasize service along with charity in the celebration of the rite is an understandable way of accentuating the evangelical command of the Lord, “who came to serve and not to be served,” that all members of the Church must serve one another in love….” — Regarding the phrase “viri selecti”, the Chairman of the Bishops Committee on the Liturgy