Jesus washes His Apostles’ Feet.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
Jesus washes His Apostles’ Feet.
“He cometh therefore to Simon Peter. And Peter saith to Him: Lord, dost Thou wash my feet? . . . Thou shalt never wash my feet,”—St. John xiii. 6, 8.
THE legal supper of the paschal lamb being ended, Jesus Christ wished to give another supper which should prove an additional wonder of love. He arose from the table, and, laying aside His garments, took a towel with which He girded Himself; He then poured water into a basin, “and began to wash the feet of the disciples, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded.” He came to Simon Peter; but this fervent disciple, overwhelmed with confusion at the thought of the grandeur and divine majesty of Him who presented Himself in so humble a posture before him, cried out, “ Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?” This was the same as to say: “Lord, Thou who art the Creator of heaven and earth; Thou who hadst no beginning, and shalt never have end; Thou in whose presence the Angels tremble and the Seraphim bow down; Thou who art the Son of God, the Holy One! and dost Thou come to wash my feet? to perform this menial service towards me, a man so full of imperfections, a mere worm of the earth? And Thou comest to wash my feet with those omnipotent hands which built the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth! with those hands with which Thou openedst the eyes of the blind, and the ears of the deaf, and gave speech to the dumb! with those pure hands which cleansed the leper, fed the hungry, banished evil spirits, and raised the dead! And Thou comest to wash, not my hands, but my feet which are less noble members of my body! Lord, Thou wash my feet! Thou prostrate Thyself before me, while all created things, celestial, terrestrial, and infernal are prostrate before Thee!”
St. John Chrysostom, paraphrasing the words of St. Peter, puts these words into the mouth of the apostle: “Thou art the master, I am the servant; Thou art the creator, I am the creature; Thou art God, I am only man; Thou wishest to wash my feet, and I, a poor, miserable sinner no! it shall not be: Thou shalt never wash my feet!”
Thus did St. Peter in the fervor of his love speak to his Divine Master. Jesus knew that Peter’s repugnance sprung from the profound respect and veneration which he entertained for his Lord. Yet, to show us that obedience is better than sacrifice, and that it should be preferred before any other virtue, Jesus, with a serene and majestic countenance, said to St. Peter, “If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with Me.” Peter, affrighted by this terrible menace, exclaimed, “Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head!” But the Divine Redeemer knew well the cleanness of heart of him whom He had chosen for His vicar on earth, and the visible head of the Church militant. With great affability Jesus reassured him, saying: “He that is washed needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly. And you are clean, but not all” (St. John xiii. 10). Without manifesting to the other disciples the treachery of Judas, Jesus abruptly broke off His discourse, well satisfied that Judas understood the dread allusion which was conveyed in the words, “And you are clean, but not all.” Jesus wished to intimate to Judas that his treachery was known, in order that the wretch might realize in his guilty soul that nothing is hidden from his Divine Master.
Then the Saviour proceeded to wash the feet of the other apostles; nor did He meet with any resistance from them: they were too much affrighted by the words which Jesus addressed to Peter, him who was to be their head and master after the withdrawal of Christ’s visible presence.
Here we should pause to reflect on the profound humility of our Holy Redeemer in washing His disciples’ feet. In imitation of Him, let us resolve to be humble also. Let us frequently make acts of this great virtue, especially when about to approach the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, in order to render ourselves more worthy of its reception.
Theophylactus, commenting on the above mysterious ceremony of the Washing of Feet, offers as his opinion that Jesus Christ did not first approach St. Peter, but Judas Iscariot; and that the Divine Master adopted this course of action in order to give the traitor a marked sign of His love and esteem, and a token of the ready and generous pardon which he could at once obtain if he would only repent of his crime. This opinion is deduced partly from the Gospel, partly from a consideration of the wickedness of Judas, and partly from a conception of the profound respect which the other apostles entertained for our Lord. Theophylactus reasons thus: The Gospel says that Jesus Christ “began to wash the feet of the disciples, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded.” Then He came to Peter, according to the Latin text, “Deinde venit ad Petrum” Therefore, before approaching the feet of Peter, our Lord had already washed those of some other disciple. But, excepting Judas, which of the apostles could witness so great an abasement of his Divine Master, and not offer the slightest resistance nor manifest the least sign of surprise? If Christ had opened the ceremony by washing the feet of any apostle other than Judas, undoubtedly such apostle would have said as Peter did say a moment later, “Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?” But these or similar words were spoken by none except Peter; at least there is no scriptural record of such an utterance made by any other apostle. In all probability, therefore, Jesus began the ceremony of the Washing of Feet by prostrating Himself before Judas, the only disciple who could witness such a sight without showing any sign of surprise or confusion. St. Bernard entertained the same opinion. “The perfidy of Judas,” the holy Doctor maintains, “was not unknown to his Divine Master; Jesus knew well that Judas feet were running fast in the dread path which led to consummate treachery and deicide: yet He did not hesitate to deal with him as with the other apostles; nay, Judas was the very first before whom the Divine Master prostrated Himself in the performance of this extraordinary act of humility.” At this point in his commentary, St. Bernard breaks out into the following impassioned apostrophe: “O man, thou who art but dust and ashes, how darest thou lift up thy head in pride and arrogance? How darest thou give way to impatience and anger? Behold and admire the meekness and humility of Jesus Christ, the Creator of heaven and earth, the Judge of the living and the dead, and be ashamed and confounded at the thought of thy pride and haughtiness! He who is God prostrates Himself before mere men; and thou, a vile worm of the earth, disdainest to humble thyself before God! He who is innocence itself, He who is sanctity itself, deigns to wash the vile feet of Judas the traitor; and thou who art guilty of a thousand crimes refusest to approach the sacred tribunal to wash away thy iniquity! He, before instituting the most august Sacrament of the Altar, humbled Himself so far as to wash the feet of Judas; and thou, before partaking of the Eucharistic banquet, art unwilling to banish from thy heart the hatred and rancor which thou entertainest towards those persons who have given thee offence!”
Thus reasons a holy Doctor of the Church; and thus also should we reason if we would derive spiritual profit from the sublime lesson of humility which our amiable Redeemer gives us in the washing of His disciples’ feet. For this purpose let us frequently repeat those words of St. Peter, “Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?” Let us often meditate on them, as also on those words of St. Francis of Assisi who, unable to express the ardor of divine love which he experienced at the thought of Christ’s humility in becoming our food, used frequently to say, “My God, my God! who art Thou, and who am I? My God, my God! who art Thou, and who am I?”
The principal fruits which we should derive from this meditation are a great horror of pride, which is the root of all other vices, and a profound esteem for holy humility, the queen of virtues and the foundation of Christian perfection. The proud can never be dear to God, and they soon become odious to men; but the humble are beloved by all and advance in virtue from day to day. Let us learn from the example of our Blessed Redeemer to practise the holy virtue of humility, and we shall receive an immense reward in time and in eternity.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
There is no doubt that God will never be wanting to us, provided that He finds in us that humility which makes us worthy of His gifts, the desire of possessing them, and the promptitude to co-operate industriously with the graces He gives us. – St. Ignatius of Loyola, Letter 50.
February Devotion: The Holy Trinity (also the Holy Family)
Virtue to practice: Humility
I vow and consecrate to God all that is in me: my memory and my actions to God the Father; my understanding and my words to God the Son; my will and my thoughts to God the Holy Ghost; my heart, my body, my tongue my senses and all my sorrows to the sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ, ‘who was contented to be betrayed into the hands of wicked men and to suffer the torment of the Cross.’ – St. Francis de Sales
An indulgence of 3 years.
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if this act of oblation is devoutly repeated every day for a monh (S.P.Ap., Sept. 22, 1922 and May 12, 1934).
The faithful who devoutly offer any prayers in honor of the Most Holy Trinity with the intention of continuing them for nine successive days, may gain:
An indulgence of 7 years once each day:
A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions at the end of the novena (S.C. Ind., Aug. 8 1847; S.P. Ap., Mar. 18, 1932).
Novena in Honor of Our Lady of Lourdes
O ever Immaculate Virgin, Mother of Mercy, Health of the Sick, Comforter of the Afflicted, thou knowest my wants, my troubles, my sufferings; deign to cast upon me a look of mercy. By appearing in the grotto of Lourdes thou wert pleased to make it a privileged sanctuary from where thou dost dispense thy favors, and already many sufferers have obtained the cure of their infirmities, both spiritual and corporal. I come, therefore, with the most unbounded confidence, to implore thy maternal intercession. Obtain, O loving Mother, the granting of my requests. Through gratitude for thy favors, I will endeavor to imitate thy virtues, that I may one day share in thy glory. R. Amen.
V. O Mary, conceived without sin,
R. Pray for us who have recourse to thee.
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