Footwashing, the Holy Thursday Mandatum: God is Love and Love is a Verb
Jesus washes his disciples feet, using our hands
As we enter into these three days, the one day, we make this mystery our own. No mere spectators in this Act of Love we become participants. We who bear the name "Christian" are to pick up that basin and towel, to climb upon that Cross and learn to live the Way of Love in service. Our faith and love are to be active and incarnate. Jesus washes his disciples feet, using our hands. We make the mystery real in a world that awaits the fullness of redemption. God is Love and Love is a Verb.
Pope Benedict XVI, the Vicar of Christ, washes the feet of Christ's disciples
CHESAPEAKE, VA. (Catholic Online) - "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him" (1 John 4:16) 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."
With those words Pope Benedict XVI began his first encyclical letter entitled Deus Caritas Est. (God is Love). It was released on the Nativity of the Lord in the year 2005. This beautiful letter can be read online here
It should be read - and re-read - by every Catholic, indeed by all Christians. Unfortunately, too many Catholics do not feast on the gifts the Holy Spirit gives us through Christ's Church, such as this letter. They help us to grow closer to the Lord and make progress in our spiritual journey.
Sometimes it is because we do not know they are available. Other times it is because we mistakenly believe such letters are "only for theologians" or might be too "intellectual". Sadly, when we make that mistake we miss out on a gift.
This letter is also available at Catholic book stores or can be ordered online here . I strongly encourage readers to buy these letters. Keep them close to you for your personal prayer time.
The word "Encyclical" means circulating letter. In the early Church there were no printing presses and there was no internet. The Bishops would handwrite letters for the faithful and they would be circulated, passed around. That tradition continues in the Church in our own day.
The Holy Thursday Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper begins what is called the Triduum (Latin for three Holy days). In his message for the Chrism Mass in Rome in 2010 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 self emptying, in Greek, His "kenosis".
It is recorded in the second chapter of his letter to the Philippians. "Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself." (Phil. 2:6-11) That self emptying is what Love is all about.
In the words of the beloved disciple John "God is Love" and we are called to live in that kind of Love. We are called to pur ourselves out for one another. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son (John 3:16). The great mystery of the love given to us in and through Jesus Christ is what we will celebrate in the next few days.
The Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper of Holy Thursday deepens our understanding of the self emptying love of Jesus Christ. On this day we celebrate the gift of the ministerial priesthood which continues to make present the Priesthood of Jesus Christ present in the Church in our own day.
When the Priest stands at that altar,he stands in jesus Christ the High Priest. Christ is the Priest and the Victim. Jesus gave Himself to us and in the Eucharist he comes to reside within us. 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 last drop of His Blood, out of love for the world. He did so to set us free from the bondage of sin and eath. St. Paul told the Galatian Christians, "For freedom Christ set us free." (Gal. 5:1)
When the Lord rose from that table, He showed us the naturally supernatural expression of Love; an expression that reveals the heart 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. Then, He enlisted them to live lives of self emptying Love for the world. To bear the name "Christian" is to walk in this love in the midst of a broken and ...
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