Holy Thursday

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Do you ever wonder why the Gospel of this day tells the story of the washing of the Feet, and not the story of the institution of the Holy Eucharist?

Our God has come to earth, and has invested everything on earth with the capacity for the divine. “Capax dei;” the ancients would have spoken of this “capax dei,” a capacity for God. Bread and wine, once simple fruit of the earth, crushed grain and crushed grapes changed into the stuff that nourishes our bodies and fills us with joy. Now they are changed again, into the very presence of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

“Capax Dei” It would have been a normal gesture of hospitality, providing water for your guests so they could wash the dust of the road from their tired feet. Maybe there would have been a extra measure of devotion on the part of the disciple who assisted the master in washing his feet. But here everything is changed. Jesus has turned the world upside down. The master washes your feet. We would have expected him to be the Master, instead he becomes a slave.

But as he got up from the table and "took off his outer robe," we have an indication of something larger. He has taken off more than his robe. St. Gaspar invites us to see how far this love has taken him. He has emptied himself completely. He had no fear that his role or prestige or his person would be diminished. He did not even fear death. He is the one who knows who he is, where he is from and where he is going.

And during supper Jesus, knowing that God had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.

It is the same for us. This is no mere gesture. This is not simply a sign or re-enactment. This is not about some past event. This is a celebration of who we are now and who we are to become.

We are invited to take off who we think we are that we might discover who we really are. The human heart is now where God delights to dwell. Bread and wine is where he sits us at table and waits on us. The simple act of washing the dishes or serving a neighbor can become a place where God is served and indeed where we become his presence. St Gaspar would invite us to both service of neighbor and in adoration of the Most Holy Eucharist, and tell us that in either act we are serving the divine presence and celebrating that he has given us a capacity for God.

This day also marks the origin of the priesthood. This is the glory of the priesthood, as Gaspar teaches, to effect and make known this incredible love of Jesus.

You also, are invited to make this extravagant love known to the world. Those who have been washed in him, who now share completely in him, in his life and his mission, we are with him those who know who we are, where we have come from and where we are going. Death has no more power over us. We can live without fear and do what needs to be done because we know that nothing, not even betrayal, will prevent the reign of God from being revealed in us.

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Thank you, Jeff.


A Poem on the Passion of the Lord
By Lactantius, 4th c.

Whoever you are who approach, and are entering the precincts of the middle of the temple, stop a little and look upon me, who, though innocent, suffered for your crime; lay me up in your mind, keep me in your breast. I am He who, pitying the bitter misfortunes of men, came hither as a messenger of offered peace, and as a full atonement for the fault of men. Here the brightest light from above is restored to the earth; here is the merciful image of safety; here I am a rest to you, the right way, the true redemption, the banner of God, and a memorable sign of fate. It was on account of you and your life that I entered the Virgin's womb, was made man, and suffered a dreadful death; nor did I find rest anywhere in the regions of the earth, but everywhere threats, everywhere labours.

First of all a wretched dwelling in the land of Judged was a shelter for me at my birth, and for my mother with me: here first, amidst the outstretched sluggish cattle, dry grass gave me a bed in a narrow stall. I passed my earliest years in the Pharian regions, being an exile in the reign of Herod; and after my return to Judaea I spent the rest of my years, always engaged in fastings, and the extremity of poverty itself, and the lowest circumstances; always by healthful admonitions applying the minds of men to the pursuit of genial uprightness, uniting with wholesome teaching many evident miracles: on which account impious Jerusalem, harassed by the raging cares of envy and cruel hatred, and blinded by madness, dared to seek for me, though innocent, by deadly punishment, a cruel death on the dreadful Cross.

And if you yourself wish to discriminate these things more fully, and if it delights you to go through all my groans, and to experience griefs with me, put together the designs and plots, and the impious price of my innocent Blood; and the pretended kisses of a disciple, and the insults and strivings of the cruel multitude; and, moreover, the blows, and tongues prepared for accusations. Picture to your mind both the witnesses, and the accursed judgment of the blinded Pilate, and the immense Cross pressing my shoulders and wearied back, and my painful steps to a dreadful death.

Now survey me from head to foot, deserted as I am, and lifted up afar from my beloved mother. Behold and see my locks clotted with blood, and my blood-stained neck under my very hair, and my head drained with cruel thorns, and pouring down like rain from all sides a stream of blood over my divine face. Survey my compressed and sightless eyes, and my afflicted cheeks; see my parched tongue poisoned with gall, and my countenance pale with death. Behold my hands pierced with nails, and my arms drawn out, and the great wound in my side; see the blood streaming from it, and my perforated feet, and blood-stained limbs. Bend your knee, and with lamentation adore the venerable wood of the Cross, and with lowly countenance stooping to the earth, which is wet with innocent blood, sprinkle it with rising tears, and at times bear me and my admonitions in your devoted heart.

Follow the footsteps of my life, and while you look upon my torments and cruel death, remembering my innumerable pangs of body and soul, learn to endure hardships, and to watch over your own safety. These memorials, if at any time you find pleasure in thinking over them, if in your mind there is any confidence to bear anything like my sufferings, if the piety due, and gratitude worthy of my labours shall arise, will be incitements to true virtue, and they will be shields against the snares of an enemy, aroused by which you will be safe, and as a conqueror bear off the palm in every contest.

If these memorials shall turn away your senses, which are devoted to a perishable world, from the fleeting shadow of earthly beauty, the result will be, that you will not venture, enticed by empty hope, to trust the frail enjoyments of fickle fortune, and to place your hope in the fleeting years of life.

But, truly, if you thus regard this perishable world, and through your love of a better country deprive yourself of earthly riches and the enjoyment of present things, the prayers of the pious will bring you up in sacred habits, and in the hope of a happy life, amidst severe punishments, will cherish you with heavenly dew, and feed you with the sweetness of the promised good. Until the great favour of God shall recall your happy" soul to the heavenly regions, your body being left after the fates of death. Then freed from all labour, then joyfully beholding the angelic choirs, and the blessed companies of saints in perpetual bliss, it shall reign with me in the happy abode of perpetual peace.

In His great mercy,
Fr. Gregory

  one of Fr. Keyes' photos

August 2012

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This page contains a single entry by Fr. Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. published on April 5, 2007 11:20 AM.

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