Holy Thursday: 'Love is a Verb'
The washing of feet is a symbolic action which expresses living a Eucharistic Life, a life of self emptying love.
The Holy Thursday Liturgy marks the end of the 40 days of Lent and the beginning of the 'Triduum', the three days which mark the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ including Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. At this Liturgy, the Church commemorates the gift of the Holy Eucharist, the institution of the ministerial Priesthood and 'the Mandatum',the new Command to Love as he Loves. The Footwashing rite symbolically proclaims the implications of the example of Jesus Christ who washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper.
These words from the First Letter of John express with remarkable clarity the heart of the Christian faith: the Christian image of God and the resulting image of mankind and its destiny... I wish in my first Encyclical to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others. That, in essence, is what the two main parts of this Letter are about, and they are profoundly interconnected."
With these words Pope Benedict XVI began his first encyclical letter Deus Caritas Est. (God is Love)
Our Holy Thursday Liturgy this evening is not simply a re-enactment of an event which happened over two thousand years ago. Rather, like every Divine Liturgy, it is an invitation to participate in the very institution of the mystery of Love called the Holy Eucharist.
There is no time in God. He is the eternal "Now" and His superabundant grace opens the portal of eternity for those of us who live in time as we participate in the Holy Mysteries.
Our Holy Thursday Liturgy this evening begins our Triduum (Latin for our three Holy days). In his message for the Chrism Mass in Rome today, Pope Benedict reaffirmed the ancient understanding concerning these three days, saying that "...they could be considered one single day. They reveal the heart and are the key to both the liturgical year and the life of the Church."
Last Sunday we celebrated Passion or Palm Sunday. Just prior to the reading of the Passion Narrative, we heard proclaimed one of the most ancient of the passages contained within the Sacred Scripture. St. Paulīs powerful words concerning Jesusī great self emptying, in Greek, His "kenosis", recorded in the second chapter of his letter to the Philippians.
Tonight deepens our understanding of that Mystery.
We celebrate the glorious gift of the ministerial priesthood which continues to make present the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. When our Priest stands at that altar, it is Christ in whom He stands, Christ is the victim, and Christ is the Holy Oblation. Jesus gave Himself to us in the great meal in which we participate on this Holy Night. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the Holy Oblation of Incarnate Love.
At the Last Supper, Jesus Sacramentally anticipated the altar of the Cross at which He would willingly pour out the very last drop of His Blood so that we could be set free to be free. Set free to love now, in Him, to live our very real human lives in Him, for Him and with Him, for the sake of the World.
When the Lord rose from that table, He showed us the naturally supernatural expression of that Love; an expression that is the very core of the Christian vocation. He who is Lord and Master, King of Kings, took off His Cloak of Royal Splendor and became a Servant. He washed the feet of those whom He had chosen to continue His Redemptive work. He showed them what they were chosen to do and then He enlisted them to live lives of self emptying Love for the world.
To bear the name "Christian" is to walk in this kind of love in the midst of a broken and wounded world that is waiting to be reborn. This is the world which He still loves. It is recreated anew as He continues His Mission through the Church. The early Christians spoke of the Church as the world in the process of being transfigured. And, my friends, we are a part of that Body, that Communion, which brings heaven to earth and earth to heaven.
Love is a verb
Our Priest, standing "in persona Christi", will rise, and taking the basin, towel and washcloth, he will wash the feet of twelve people chosen to symbolize the sacrificial service of love offered by this whole parish.
The Love of Christ is made into symbolic action, because Love is a verb. Love is a command, a mandate. This foot-washing is more than a re-enactment; it is an invitation to participate in the ongoing redemptive mission of Jesus Christ through His Church.
The Eucharist is the "Sacrament of Love", in the words of our beloved Holy Father Benedict XVI. In that first Encyclical letter he underscored not only the depth of the Mystery revealed in that penultimate Sacrament, but he also connected that Sacrament - and our participation in it - to our choice to live lives of love in the real world.
Love is a verb
The washing of feet is a symbolic action which expresses living a Eucharistic Life, a life of self emptying love in imitation of the Lord who emptied Himself for us. It has been traditionally referred to as "the Mandatum", the Command. It is an invitation to become a man or woman poured out for others. A Christian who lives the love of Charity (Caritas), the Love of Jesus Christ, makes Him real in the real ...
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