Christ the Lord was tempted and suffered for us. Come, let us adore him.
Liturgical Colour: White.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
|Second Reading: Saint Melito of Sardis (- c.180)|
Melito was the bishop of Sardis near Smyrna in western Anatolia, and a great authority in early Christianity. Jerome, speaking of the Old Testament canon established by Melito, quotes Tertullian to the effect that he was esteemed as a prophet by many of the faithful. Most of his works have not survived. His Apology to Marcus Aurelius, now known only in a Syriac translation, explains the origins of the Christian faith and tries to dissuade the emperor from persecuting Christians. His On the Passover, which was rediscovered only in 1940, sets the Last Supper and the Passion in the context of the Jewish Passover and thus relates Christianity to its roots in Judaism.
|40 Days and 40 Ways: Maundy Thursday|
When he had washed their feet and put on his clothes again he went back to the table. “Do you understand” he said “what I have done to you? You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet.” (Jn 13: 12-14)
Ex 12:1-8, 11-14
The festival on which Passover was based was originally a nomad festival at the move from winter pastures in the plains to summer pastures in the hills. A fine lamb was offered to placate the gods, so that they would not harm the rest of the flock; it was eaten at the first full moon of spring, after the spring equinox (20th March). Blood on the doorposts of the tents was a sign that the offering had been made. Water is scarce for nomads, so the lamb was roasted, not boiled – cooking pots were packed, anyway! This primitive festival was taken up by the Hebrews to commemorate the great move from Egypt through the desert, and – most of all – the covenant made in the desert of Sinai, when God made Israel his own people. It was celebrated each year, and the blood of the lamb sprinkled over the altar (representing God) and the people signified their union in the covenant.
This feast was taken up by Jesus as the occasion for him to make his own new covenant, fulfilling the promises made by the prophets of a new covenant to replace the old covenant so definitively broken at the time of the Babylonian Exile. Whether Jesus celebrated it on the traditional evening or the day before is unclear (see yesterday’s discussion); if it was not the conventional day he must have taken this last opportunity to make it his own Passover Festival with his community. Paul gives us the story of this meal, which he himself had received from what was already traditional, hardly a dozen years after the Last Supper, well before the Gospels were written.
1 Co 11:23-26
Jesus himself was the lamb who was to be sacrificed, and his new covenant was sealed, not in blood sprinkled, but in his own blood consumed. It was a ‘memorial’, that is, an effective re-enactment, actually renewing the act of dedication and union. In today’s reading Paul is rebuking the Corinthians for re-enacting this significant moment thoughtlessly, as though it was an ordinary festal meal; they had lost the intention and the seriousness. They were no longer proclaiming the death of Jesus, no longer engaging themselves in the new covenant. It is a dangerous thing to commit oneself to a new covenant sealed by death and leading to new life.
Jesus’s extraordinary gesture recorded in the Gospel of John shows us the full meaning of what he was doing. The narrative stresses that Jesus knew what was to come; he was showing his disciples the meaning of the events. By the act of rising from the table and performing the demeaning act of stripping down and washing the feet of his followers, his guests, he was showing the meaning of the dire events to come – Peter’s horror says it all, but there was far worse to come. It was a pre-enactment of his great act of serving his community, the new family which he was binding to himself by this new covenant, the foundational act of service in the Church.
Is there an act of service I can perform to share in Jesus’s foot-washing?
This passage is an extract from the booklet “40 Days and 40 Ways” by Dom Henry Wansbrough OSB, published by the Catholic Truth Society and used by permission. “40 Days and 40 Ways” has meditations for each day in Lent. To find out more about the booklet, or to buy it, please visit the CTS web site.
The Universalis Readings at Mass page shows the readings for today’s Mass.
White is the colour of heaven. Liturgically, it is used to celebrate feasts of the Lord; Christmas and Easter, the great seasons of the Lord; and the saints. Not that you will always see white in church, because if something more splendid, such as gold, is available, that can and should be used instead. We are, after all, celebrating.
In the earliest centuries all vestments were white – the white of baptismal purity and of the robes worn by the armies of the redeemed in the Apocalypse, washed white in the blood of the Lamb. As the Church grew secure enough to be able to plan her liturgy, she began to use colour so that our sense of sight could deepen our experience of the mysteries of salvation, just as incense recruits our sense of smell and music that of hearing. Over the centuries various schemes of colour for feasts and seasons were worked out, and it is only as late as the 19th century that they were harmonized into their present form.
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||Hebrews 4:14-15 ©|
Since in Jesus, the Son of God, we have the supreme high priest who has gone through to the highest heaven, we must never let go of the faith that we have professed. For it is not as if we had a high priest who was incapable of feeling our weaknesses with us; but we have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Hebrews 7:26-27 ©|
The ideal high priest would have to be holy, innocent and uncontaminated, beyond the influence of sinners, and raised up above the heavens; one who would not need to offer sacrifices every day, as the other high priests do for their own sins and then for those of the people, because Jesus Christ our Lord has done this once and for all by offering himself.
|Afternoon reading (None)||Hebrews 9:11-12 ©|
Now Christ has come, as the high priest of all the blessings which were to come. He has passed through the greater, the more perfect tent, which is better than the one made by men’s hands because it is not of this created order; and he has entered the sanctuary once and for all, taking with him not the blood of goats and bull calves, but his own blood, having won an eternal redemption for us.