April 2, 2015

Holy Thursday

Therefore, whosoever shall eat this Bread, 
or drink the Chalice of the Lord unworthily, 
shall be guilty of the Body and of the Blood of the Lord.

Commentaries by Dom Gueranger's Liturgical Year
After having rebuked the Christians of Corinth for the abuses into which they had fallen at the feasts (called Agape), which had been introduced by a spirit of fraternal charity but were soon abolished, the Holy Apostle relates the history of the Last Supper. His account, which corresponds throughout with that given by the evangelists, rests upon the testimony of our Blessed Savior Himself, Who deigned to appear to him and instruct him in person, after his conversion. The Apostle does not omit to give the words, whereby our Lord empowered His Apostles to renew what He Himself had done: he tells us that, as often as the priest consecrates the Body and Blood of Christ, he shows the death of the Lord, thus expressing the oneness there is between the Sacrifice of the Cross and that of the Altar. The consequence to be drawn from this teaching is evident; it is contained in these words of the Apostle: “Let a man prove himself, and so let him eat of that Bread and drink of the Chalice.” What could be more just, than that, having to be initiated in so intimate a manner to the Mystery of the Redemption and to contract so close a union with the Divine Victim, we should banish from our hearts sin and affection to sin? “He that eateth My Flesh and drinketh My Blood, abideth in Me, and
I in Him,” says our Lord. (John 6: 57) Could there be a closer union? God and man abiding in each other? Oh! How carefully ought we to purify our soul, and render our will conformable to the Will of Jesus, before approaching this Divine Banquet, to which He invites us! Let us beseech Him to prepare us Himself, as He did His Apostles by washing their feet. He will grant us our request, not only today, but as often as we go to Holy Communion, provided we are docile to His grace.
 In the Offertory antiphon, the soul, confiding in the promise made to her by Christ that He will feed her with the Bread of Life, gives way to a transport of joy. She praises her God for this Divine Nourishment, which keeps death from them that eat.

We find this act of humble charity practiced in the ages of persecution, and even later. The acts of the saints of the first six centuries, and the homilies and writings of the holy fathers, are filled with allusions to it. Afterwards, charity grew cold, and this particular way of exercising it was confined, and almost exclusively, to monasteries. Today, in every church of any importance, the prelate, or superior, honors our Savior’s condescension, by the ceremony we call the Washing of the Feet. 

 Our Savior’s washing the feet of His disciples before permitting them to partake of His Divine Mystery, conveys an instruction to us. The Apostle has just been telling us, that we should prove ourselves: and here we have Jesus saying to His disciples: “You are clean. It is true,” He adds: “but not all”: just as the Apostle assures us, that there are some who render themselves guilty of the Body and Blood of the Lord. God forbid we should ever be of the number! Let us prove ourselves; let us sound the depths of our conscience, before approaching the Holy Table. Mortal sin, and the affection to it, would change the Bread of Life into a deadly poison for our souls. But if respect for the Holiness of God, Who is about to enter within us by Holy Communion, should make us shudder at the thought of receiving Him in the state of mortal sin, which robs the soul of the Image of God and gives her that of satan, ought not that same respect urge us to purify our souls from venial sins, which dim the beauty of grace? “He,” says our Savior, “that is washed needeth not but to wash his feet.” The feet are those earthly attachments, which so often lead us to the brink of sin. Let us watch over our senses, and the affections of our hearts. Let us wash away these stains by a sincere confession, by penance, by sorrow, and by humility; that thus we may worthily receive the adorable Sacrament, and derive from it the fullness of its power and grace.
 Having come as far as Gethsemani, He goes into a garden, whither He had often led His Apostles and rested there with them. Suddenly, His Soul is overpowered with grief; His human Nature experiences, as it were, a suspension of that beatitude which results from its union with the Divinity. This His Humanity will be interiorly supported, even to the very last moment of His Passion; but It must bear everything that it is possible for It to bear. Jesus feels such intense sadness, that the very presence of His disciples is insupportable; He leaves them, taking with Him only Peter, James, and John, who, a short time before, had been witnesses of His glorious Transfiguration: will they show
greater courage than the rest, when they see their Divine Master in the hands of His enemies?  His words show them what a sudden change has come over Him: “My Soul is sorrowful even unto death: stay you here, and watch with Me.” (Matt. 26: 38)

He leaves them, and goes to a grotto, which is about a stone’s throw distant. There does our Jesus prostrate Himself and pray, saying: “Father! All things are possible to Thee. Remove this chalice from Me: but not what I will, but what Thou wilt.” (Mark 14: 36) While He was thus praying, a sweat of Blood flows from His Body and bathes the ground. It is an agony, that He suffers. God sends help to His sinking frame. Jesus is treated as man; His Humanity, exhausted as it is, is to receive no other sensible aid than that which is now brought Him by an angel (whom tradition affirms to have been Gabriel). Hereupon He rises, and again accepts the Chalice prepared for Him. But what a Chalice! Every pain that body and soul can suffer; the sins of the whole world taken upon Himself, and crying
out vengeance against Him; the ingratitude of men, many of whom will make His Sacrifice useless. He begins His prayer by asking that the Chalice may be taken from Him; He ends it by saying to His Father: “Not My will, but Thine be done!” (Luke 22: 42)

Jesus then rises, leaving the earth covered with the Blood of His Agony; it is the first blood-shedding of His Passion. He goes to His three disciples, and, finding them asleep, says to them, “What! Could you not watch one hour with Me?: (Matt 26: 40) This is the beginning of that feature of His sufferings which consists in His being abandoned. He twice returns to the grotto, and repeats His sorrowful, but submissive, prayer; twice He returns to His disciples, whom He had asked to watch near Him, but at each time, finds them asleep. At length, He speaks to them, saying, “Sleep ye now, and take your rest! Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man shall be betrayed into the hands of sinners.” Then resuming the energy of His Divine Courage, He adds, “Rise! Let us go! Behold, he is at hand that will betray Me.” (Matt 26: 45, 46)

While He is speaking these last few words, a numerous body of armed men enter the garden with torches in their hands. Judas is at their head. The betrayal is made by a profanation of the sign of friendship. “Judas! Dost thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Luke 22: 48) These piercing words should have made the traitor throw himself at his Master’s Feet, and ask pardon; but it was too late; he feared the soldiers. Jesus says to them with all the majesty of a King, “If you see Me, let these go their way. You are come out, as it were against a thief with swords and clubs. When I was daily with you in the Temple, you did not stretch your hands against Me; but this is your hour, and the 
power of darkness.” Then turning to Peter, who has drawn and used his sword, He says to him, “Thinkest thou that I cannot ask my Father and He will give me presently more than twelve legions of Angels? How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled?” (Matthew 26: 53-54)

And now, Jesus permits Himself to be led. Whereupon, His Apostles run away in fear. Peter and another disciple follow Him, but as far off as they can. The soldiers lead Jesus by the same road, along which He had passed on the previous Sunday, when the people met Him with palm and olive branches in their hands. They cross the brook Cedron; and there is a tradition of the Church of Jerusalem that the soldiers, as they passed the bridge, threw Jesus into the water. Thus was fulfilled the prophecy of David, “He shall drink the torrent in the way.” (Ps. 59: 7)

They reach the city walls. The gate is opened, and the Divine Prisoner enters. The enemies of Jesus have arranged to take Him, in the morning, to Pontius Pilate. At last, their Victim is brought before them, and He shall not escape their vengeance!

Here let us interrupt our history of the Passion, till the morrow shall bring us to the solemn hour, when the Great Mystery of our instruction and salvation was accomplished.What a day is this that we have been spending! How full of Jesus’ love! He has given us His Body and Blood to be our Food; He has instituted the priesthood of the new Testament; He has poured out upon the world the most sublime instructions of His loving Heart. We have seen Him struggling with the feelings of human weakness, as He beheld the Chalice of the Passion that was prepared for Him; but He triumphed over all, in order to save us. We have seen Him betrayed, fettered, and led captive into the Holy City, there to consummate His Sacrifice. Let us adore and love this Jesus, who might have saved us by one and the least of all these humiliations; but Whose love for us was not satisfied unless He drank, to the very dregs, the Chalice He had accepted from His Father.

No comments:

Post a Comment