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Holy Thursday: Take Up the Basin and Towel. Love is a Verb.

By Deacon Keith Fournier
April 17th, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The Vigil Mass of Holy Thursday is meant to deepen our understanding of the self emptying of Jesus Christ. It is also meant to open up for us a deeper understanding of the meaning of our own lives. 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 enlisted them to live lives of self emptying Love for the world. As we enter into the Triduum, the three days which is one great liturgical day, we can make this mystery our own. We are not spectators, we are to become participants. All who bear the name Christian are now called to pick up that basin and towel, to climb upon that Cross and live this way of Love in service.

CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - The Vigil Mass of Holy Thursday is meant to deepen our understanding of the self emptying of Jesus Christ. It is also meant to open up for us a deeper understanding of the meaning of our own lives.

We celebrate the gift of the ministerial priesthood which continues to make present the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. When our Priest stands at that altar, it is Jesus Christ in whom He stands. Jesus is the victim, the priest and the Holy Oblation.

At the Last Supper, Jesus 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 live free. St. Paul told the Galatians, \"For freedom Christ set us free.\" (Gal. 5:1)

We are set free in order to live differently because we are Christians. We are called to offer ourselves, in the Lord, for the sake of the World. When the Lord rose from that table, He showed us the naturally supernatural expression of Love; an expression that reveals the call of every Christian.

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 enlisted them to live lives of self emptying Love for the world.

To bear the name Christian is to walk in love in the midst of a broken and wounded world waiting to be reborn. This is the world which God still loves. It is being recreated anew as He continues His Mission through the Church, of which you and I are members.

The early Christians spoke of the Church as the world in the process of being transfigured. We are a part of that Communion, which brings heaven to earth and earth to heaven. Christian love is to be lived. That is what I mean by the expression, love is a verb. 

Our Priest will rise, and take the basin, towel and washcloth. The Love of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, 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 of an actual historic event; it is an invitation to participate in the ongoing redemptive mission of Jesus Christ,lived through His Church.

Foot washing is a symbolic action. It expresses what living a Eucharistic Life, a life of self emptying love in imitation of the Lord who emptied Himself for us, really looks like.

It is referred to as the Mandatum, the Command, for good reason. A Christian who lives the love of Charity (Caritas), the Love of Jesus Christ, is to make Jesus Christ real in a real world. In so doing, the Incarnation continues.

In our participation in the Mysteries of these three Holy days, this one great liturgical day; we will encounter the Lord Himself. In that encounter He calls us to bear His name in the real world by more than a label. 

It helps to remember what names meant in the biblical sense. They communicated identity. Through God\'s grace we are made capable of becoming a manifestation of the self emptying Servant love of Jesus the Christ.

In his 2005 Encyclical letter entitled God is Love, Pope Emeritus Benedict wrote of the inner dynamic which happens when we participate in the Eucharist:

The Eucharist draws us into Jesus\' act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving. Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own.

Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians. We become \"one body\", completely joined in a single existence. Love of God and love of neighbor are now truly united: God incarnate draws us all to himself....\"

So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. 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.

So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table ...\"You call me \'teacher\' and \'master,\' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another\'s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.
(St John, Chapter 13)

In that scene we encounter Jesus, before He who knew no sin, would suffer and freely stretch out His sacred arms to embrace the entire world and join heaven to earth, showing the depth and substance of true love.

Shortly after this event we read of the continuation of this act of poured out Love. First Jesus inaugurates the great meal that is itself the very heart of the holy exchange, The Sacrifice, the Holy Oblation of Love. He gives Himself as food for those who will make the journey with Him back to the Father and invites them to bring the whole world along with them.

Then, the Innocent One walks the way of suffering and mounts the altar of sacrifice on Golgotha in order to fully pour Himself out - every last drop of blood and water flowing from His wounded side - on behalf of us all, beginning creation anew, overcoming sin, paying the debt of justice and defeating the devil and last enemy, death.

As we enter into the Triduum, the three days which is one great liturgical day, we can make this mystery our own. We are not spectators, we are to become participants. All who bear the name Christian are now called to pick up that basin and towel, to climb upon that Cross and live this way of Love in service.

Our faith and love are meant to be active and incarnate. We live Lovesī eternal promise by living like the One who washed His disciples feet. When we do, we make the mystery real in a world which awaits the fullness of redemption.

Pope Francis will celebrate Holy Thursday Mass at Our Lady of Providence Center in Rome. The Center is run by the Father Carlo Gnocchi Foundation and is home to many disabled and elderly men and women with neuro-degenerative diseases, along with their doctors, caretakers and families.

This is a continuation of the beautiful act of love  last year when he washed the feet of young prisoners at the Casal del Marmo juvenile detention center in Rome. This act of loving witness reveals the interior meaning of the mandatum, the command of love expressed by Jesus at the Last Supper when He washed the feet of His Disciples.

Washing the feet of the poor was the practice of the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. He carried it with him from his service to the Lord and His Church in Argentina into the Chair of Peter.  This is a priest, Bishop and Pope who recognizes the face of Jesus in the poor.

This is a beautiful continuation of a prophetic papacy which is moving the hearts of men and women throughout the world, drawing us to our knees and challenging us to live differently. Calling us to walk the talk.

There are two streams in the tradition concerning the washing of feet; both of which are ancient and beautiful. One directly connects the activity with the institution of the ministerial priesthood at the last Supper. This is how the optional Rite of Foot Washing became liturgically connected with the Mass of the Lord\'s Supper on Holy Thursday.

The other was practiced in monasteries and religious houses in the Church during her early developmental years. It is associated with the practice of hospitality and our prophetic call to imitate Jesus the Servant. Given the fact that travelers walked long distances, their feet were dirty and sometimes even wounded. Foot washing was a profound sign of the humility of the host and an act of Gospel hospitality. 

Sadly, the tussle over these two beautiful and meaningful symbols co-existing became fodder for a discussion which made its way into the secular press. The endless articles over what was essentially an in house debate did little to assist us as Christians in our primary call to proclaim the saving message of the Gospel in word and deed to an age which has lost its way. 

When the Lord rose from that table, He showed us a naturally supernatural expression of Love; an expression that reveals the heart of the Christian vocation and can be expressed in many ways. 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. 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. This command now passes to each one of us.

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