Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sententiae Patristicae: Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord's Supper

The Fathers of the Church on the Readings of the Lectionary

First Reading Exodus 12:1–8, 11–14
Second Reading 1 Corinthians 11:23–26
Gospel John 13:1–15

For the second reading, see Body and Blood of the Lord, Year C.

St. Cyprian--Christ is the passover lamb whose blood delivers from death:
‎‎And that the sign pertains to the passion and blood of Christ, and that whoever is found in this sign is kept safe and unharmed, is also proved by God’s testimony, saying, “And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses in which ye shall be; and I will see the blood, and will protect you, and the plague of diminution shall not be upon you when I smite the land of Egypt.” (Ex 12:13) What previously preceded by a figure in the slain lamb is fulfilled in Christ, the truth which followed afterwards. As, then, when Egypt was smitten, the Jewish people could not escape except by the blood and the sign of the lamb; so also, when the world shall begin to be desolated and smitten, whoever is found in the blood and the sign of Christ alone shall escape. (Eze 9:4; Rev 7:3, 4) (Cyprian, Ad Demetr. 22, ANF, vol. 5, pg. 464)

St. John Chrysostom--the Christian must eat the passover lamb with loins girded:
‎[W]e too eat a Passover, even Christ; “for,” saith he, “our Passover hath been sacrificed, even Christ.” (1 Cor. 5:7) What then? We too ought to eat it, both sandalled and girded. And why? That we too may be ready for our Exodus, for our departure hence.
‎‎Moral. Let not any one of them that eat this Passover look towards Egypt, but towards Heaven, towards “Jerusalem that is above.” (Gal. 4:26) On this account thou eatest with thy loins girded, on this account thou eatest with shoes on thy feet, that thou mayest know, that from the moment thou first beginnest to eat the Passover, thou oughtest to set out, and to be upon thy journey. And this implies two things, both that we must depart out of Egypt, and that, whilst we stay, we must stay henceforth as in a strange country; “for our citizenship,” saith he, “is in Heaven” (Phil. 3:20); and that all our life long we should ever be prepared, so that when we are called we may not put it off, but say, “My heart is fixed.” (Ps. 108:1) (Chrysostom, Hom. Eph. 23, NPNF1, vol. 13, pg. 165)

St. Augustine--Christ loved his disciples to the end:
‎‎But perhaps the words, “He loved them unto the end,” may have to be understood in this way, That He so loved them as to die for them. For this He testified when He said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn 15:13) We have certainly no objection that “He loved them unto the end” should be so understood, that is, it was His very love that carried Him on to death. (Augustine, Tract. en ev. Joan. 55.2, NPNF1, vol. 1, pg. 300)

St. Augustine--St. John prefaces the washing of the feet by commending the Lord's majesty:
‎‎We ought, dearly beloved, carefully to mark the meaning of the evangelist; because that, when about to speak of the pre-eminent humility of the Lord, it was his desire first to ommend His majesty. It is in reference to this that he says, “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He has come from God, and is going to God.” It is He, therefore, into whose hands the Father had given all things, who now washes, not the disciples’ hands, but their feet: and it was just while knowing that He had come from God, and was proceeding to God, that He discharged the office of a servant, not of God the Lord, but of man. And this also is referred to by the prefatory notice he has been pleased to make of His betrayer, who was now come as such, and was not unknown to Him; that the greatness of His humility should be still further enhanced by the fact that He did not esteem it beneath His dignity to wash also the feet of one whose hands He already foresaw to be steeped in wickedness. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 55.6, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 300-301)

St. Augustine--in baptism, the Christian is washed entirely, but contact with the world brings sin and need for daily "washing of the feet" by Christ:
‎‎The Lord says, The Truth declares that even he who has been washed has need still to wash his feet. What, my brethren, what think you of it, save that in holy baptism a man has all of him washed, not all save his feet, but every whit; and yet, while thereafter living in this human state, he cannot fail to tread on the ground with his feet. And thus our human feelings themselves, which are inseparable from our mortal life on earth, are like feet wherewith we are brought into sensible contact with human affairs; and are so in such a way, that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. (1 Jn 1:8) And every day, therefore, is He who intercedeth for us (Rom 8:34), washing our feet: and that we,too have daily need to be washing our feet, that is ordering aright the path of our spiritual foot. steps, we acknowledge even in the Lord’: prayer, when we say, “Forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors.” (Mt 6:12) For “if,’ as it is written, “we confess our sins,” then verily is He, who washed His disciples’ feet, “faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” (1 Jn 1:9) that is, even to our feet wherewith we walk on the earth. (Augustine, Tract. in ev. Joan. 56.4, NPNF1, vol. 7, pg. 302)

St. John Chrysostom--Christ tries to restrain Judas from his wickedness by his act of humilty:
‎‎The man whom most of all there was reason to hate, because being a disciple, having shared the table and the salt, having seen the miracles and been deemed worthy of such great things, he acted more grievously than any, not stoning indeed, nor insulting Him, but betraying and giving Him up, observe in how friendly sort He receiveth this man, washing his feet; for even in this way He desired to restrain him from that wickedness. Yet it was in His power, had He willed it, to have withered him like the fig-tree, to have cut him in two as He rent the rocks, to have cleft him asunder like the veil; but He would not lead him away from his design by compulsion, but by choice. Wherefore He washed his feet; and not even by this was that wretched and miserable man shamed. (Chrysostom, Hom. Jn. 70.1, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg. 257)

St. John Chrysostom--Christ gives us an example of humility:
‎‎“If I then,” He saith, “your Lord and Master have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”
‎‎And yet it is not the same thing, for He is Lord and Master, but ye are fellow-servants one of another. What meaneth then the “as”? “With the same zeal.” For on this account He taketh instances from greater actions that we may, if so be, perform the less. Thus schoolmasters write the letters for children very beautifully, that they may come to imitate them though but in an inferior manner. Where now are they who spit on their fellow-servants? where now they who demand honors? Christ washed the feet of the traitor, the sacrilegious, the thief, and that close to the time of the betrayal, and incurable as he was, made him a partaker of His table; and art thou highminded, and dost thou draw up thine eyebrows? “Let us then wash one another’s feet,” saith some one, “then we must wash those of our domestics.” And what great thing if we do wash even those of our domestics? In our case “slave” and “free” is a difference of words; but there an actual reality. For by nature He was Lord and we servants, yet even this He refused not at this time to do. (Chrysostom, Hom Jn. 71.1, NPNF1, vol. 14, pg. 260)

St. Ambrose prays to Christ who came among us as a servant:
‎‎Come, then, Lord Jesus, put off Thy garments, which Thou didst put on for my sake; be Thou stripped that Thou mayest clothe us with Thy mercy. Gird Thyself for our sakes with a towel, that Thou mayest gird us with Thy gift of immortality. Pour water into the basin, wash not only our feet but also the head, and not only of the body, but also the footsteps of the soul. I wish to put off all the filth of our frailty, so that I also may say: “By night I have put off my coat, how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet, how shall I defile them?” (Cant 5:3)
‎‎How great is that excellence! As a servant, Thou dost wash the feet of Thy disciples; as God, Thou sendest dew from heaven. Nor dost Thou wash the feet only, but also invitest us to sit down with Thee, and by the example of Thy dignity dost exhort us, saying: “Ye call Me Master and Lord, and ye do well, for so I am. If, then, I the Lord and Master have washed your feet, ye ought also to wash one another’s feet.” (Jn 13:13, 14)
‎‎I, then, wish also myself to wash the feet of my brethren, I wish to fulfil the commandment of my Lord, I will not be ashamed in myself, nor disdain what He Himself did first. Good is the mystery of humility, because while washing the pollutions of others I wash away my own. But all were not able to exhaust this mystery. (Ambrose, De Spir. Sanct. 1, Prol. 13-15, NPNF2, vol. 10, pg. 95)

No comments: