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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Mat. 26:17–19. Mark 14:12–16. Luke 22:14–18. John 13:1–20]

ON the first day of the Azymes, or unleavened bread, when the Paschal lamb was to be sacrificed, the disciples went to Jesus and said to Him: “Where wilt Thou that we prepare for Thee to eat the Pasch?” He said to Peter and John: “Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man carrying a pitcher of water: follow him. And wheresoever he shall go in, say to the master of the house: ‘The Master saith: Where is My refectory, where I may eat the Pasch with My disciples?’ He will show you a large dining-room, furnished, and there prepare ye for us.”

The disciples went into the city, found all as He had told them, and prepared the Pasch. In the evening, Jesus came with the other apostles. And when they were at table Jesus said to them: “With desire I have desired to eat this Pasch with you before I suffer. For I say unto you that I will not eat of it, till it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

He then rose from supper, and laid aside His garment, and having taken a towel, He girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin, and began to wash the feet of his disciples, and to wipe them with the towel. But when He came first to Peter, the apostle said in surprise: “Lord, dost Thou wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said: “What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.” Peter continued to resist, saying that his Divine Master should never wash his feet. Then Jesus said to him: “If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with Me.” Thereupon Peter humbly replied: “Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” Jesus saith to him: “He that is washed needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly. And you are clean, but not all.”

 

Fig. 83. Cœnaculum at Jerusalem (upper room as at present).

After He had washed the feet of the twelve apostles, He sat down again at the table, and told them that since He, their Lord and Master, had given them such an example, they were to imitate Him in practising humility.

Omniscience of our Lord. He knew beforehand that Peter and John would meet a man in the city, carrying a pitcher of water, who would go straight into the house where Jesus had arranged to eat the pasch. He also saw into the heart of Judas, and knew that he was meditating His betrayal.

The last Pasch. Jesus had a great desire to eat “this”, the last typical Pasch, with His disciples. When He had eaten this Paschal lamb with them, the Old Covenant was closed, and the New Covenant of grace began; for immediately after the Paschal feast our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist, in which the true Lamb of God is offered up, and given to the faithful to be the Food of their souls. The loving Heart of Jesus longed to institute the New Covenant of grace, to offer Himself up in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood for our salvation, and to give Himself to us for the nourishment of our souls. Therefore He said: “With desire I have desired to eat this Pasch with you.”

The Real Presence. Our Lord tells His disciples beforehand what is the holy Eucharist which He will presently institute. It is the fulfilment of the Paschal lamb. Therefore the Eucharist must be His own Self, His own Body and Blood, the real Lamb of God, and must be a sacrifice.

The object of the washing of feet. Firstly, our Lord wished to cleanse His disciples perfectly from sin, and prepare their souls for the reception of His Body and Blood, teaching us by this ceremony that we must wash our souls in the holy Sacrament of Penance before we receive Holy Communion. Secondly, our Lord desired by this washing of their feet to give to His apostles and to all Christians an example of humility and brotherly love. St. John (13:3) says that Jesus washed the disciples’ feet “knowing that the Father had given Him all things into His hands, and that He came from God and goeth to God”. It was, therefore, in the full consciousness of His divine power and majesty that our Lord laid aside His upper garment, girded Himself with a towel, poured water into the basin, knelt down on the ground before each of His apostles, and washed their feet, as if He had been their servant! What self-abasement! What love! Let us remember that He gave us this example that we too might be humble and serve one another.

Virtues shown by St. Peter on this occasion. Humility. Love of our Lord. Obedience.

In commemoration of the washing of the feet, Bishops wash the feet of twelve poor men on Maundy-Thursday. This ceremony is called the Mandatum, i. e. the Commandment.

APPLICATION. You could show to others—to your parents, brothers, neighbours &c., far more love than you have hitherto shown. Consider no service or labour for them humiliating. Do it cheerfully, and in imitation of our dear Lord. Never say, when any disagreeable service is required of you: “Oh, such and such an one ought to do this”; but say: “Dear Lord, I will do it for love of Thee!”








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