CACINA

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on April 21, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

John 13:1-15

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. 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 yook 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. 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.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.” 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.” For he knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? 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.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We enter now into the Three Days, the Triduum, the axis point in the liturgical calendar, the fulcrum on which swivels the 40 days of Lent on one side and the 50 days of Easter celebration on the other. Today is Holy Thursday. Some churches call Holy Thursday “Maundy Thursday.” “Maundy” is an English form of the Latin word mandatum, a word that means, “commandment.” This suggestion of a commandment comes from a verse in John’s gospel that follows immediately after the text we have read in today’s gospel, the passage at John 13:34 that says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” So some churches have called this day, Maundy Thursday, because of Jesus’ commandment that we are to love, and the unique ritual action of this liturgy that we celebrate at this evening’s Mass, the washing of feet, similarly bears the name, the Mandatum.

John’s gospel is unique among the four gospels in its omission of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, but this omission does not mean that the Last Supper is devoid of any sacramental import in John’s mind. Some liturgical scholars believe that footwashing likely had its origins as a rite of initiation in the community of the Gospel of John before the gospel was written. For that community, the foot washing was probably an initiation rite much like baptism is and has been for Christians for a very long time now. For the community of the Gospel of John, the foot washing may have been more like baptism as we know it than as the reminder of service that we typically see in it. One of the ways that historians who study Christian worship can tell that something was happening in a church is a law against doing that very thing. (Why should we bother to write a law unless there are people doing the very thing we wish them not to do?) Church laws against initiation by washing feet occur as late as the fourth or fifth centuries of Christianity.

If indeed the community of John’s Gospel had at one time brought people into its embrace by foot washing rather than through baptism, this rite we celebrate tonight at the beginning of the Triduum hearkens back to an ancient initiatory practice. With the rite of baptism that the Church celebrates at the Easter vigil to initiate new members into the community, the whole liturgical thrust of the Three Days is our renewal as baptized members of the Body of Christ. Then as we enter into the mysteries of the Triduum, let us be renewed in our baptismal commitment and rededicate ourselves to a life of proclamation of the gospel, service to the poor, and love for one another.

Holy Thursday: In the Christian calendar, Holy Thursday is the Thursday before Easter, the day on which the Last Supper is said to have occurred. Holy Thursday is the most complex and profound of all religious observances, saving only the Easter Vigil. It celebrates the institution by the Lord of the Eucharist. The Last Supper was also Christ’s farewell to his assembled disciples, some of whom would betray, desert or deny him before the sun rose again.

On Holy Thursday morning there is a special Mass in Cathedral Churches, celebrated by the bishop and as many priests of the diocese as can attend, because it is a solemn observance of Christ’s institution of the priesthood at the Last Supper. At this “Chrism Mass” the bishop also blesses the Oil of Chrism used for Baptism, Confirmation, and Anointing of the sick or dying.

The evening Holy Thursday Liturgy, marks the end of Lent and the beginning of the sacred “Triduum” (“three days”) of Holy Week, which culminates in the Easter Vigil, and concludes at Vespers on the evening of Easter day. The Mass begins in the evening, because Passover began at sundown; it commemorates our Lord’s institution of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper. It also shows both the worth God ascribes to the humility of service, and the need for cleansing with water (a symbol of baptism) in the Mandatum, washing, commemorating Jesus’ washing the feet of his apostles, as well as in the priest’s stripping and washing of the altar. No Mass will be celebrated again in the Church until the Easter Vigil proclaims the Resurrection.

Spiritual reading: We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love. (Jean Vanier)

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