The astonishing humility of God

Giorgio_vasari,_ultima_cena,_da_ss._annunziata_a_figline,_1567-69,_08As for us, it is fitting that we should glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is health and life and resurrection to us, by Whom we are saved and set free (cf. Galatians 6:14).

If you are sick; He is health. If you are in the grip of death; He is life. If you have stumbled and fallen low, once, twice, three times or more, He is resurrection.

If  you are bound up and fettered, if you are pushed down, or held back, or laden with burdens too heavy to bear, He is deliverance and freedom.

If you are oppressed in sin’s narrow place, He takes you by the hand and tonight, yes, tonight, He leads you out into the vast and spacious place of His prayer to the Father. «This, Father, is my desire, that all those whom thou hast entrusted to me may be with me where I am, so as to see my glory, thy gift made to me, in that love which thou didst bestow upon me before the foundation of the world». (John 17:24).

This is the birth–night of adoration of the God so humble that He hides Himself beneath the appearance of a little piece of bread. This is the night of a hushed amazement, the night of believing disbelief and of wordless wonder.

«Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore, Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing more, See, Lord, at Thy service low lies here a heart Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art». (Adoro Te Devote, St Thomas Aquinas)

This is the night of God at table with man. Not only does this Companion-God sit at our board to share our bread: He becomes Bread in every mouth.

This is the night of the Blood of the Lamb: the birthday of the Chalice, the first wave of that immense crimson tide that tomorrow will flow gushing from the pierced side.

This is the night of the astonishing humility of God. the night of God bending low to wash, to kiss, to perfume the very feet that will run from the fearful garden in the night, and from the proud praetorium, and from the Cross terrible against dark and heavy skies.

«Before you run from me, O you whom I have chosen to run after me, let me wash your feet and mark them sweetly with the imprint of my kiss. It was not you that chose me, it was I that chose you (John 15:16).

This kiss to your feet is the pledge of my paschal absolution. My feet, you will see them pierced by a nail; yours, I would pierce them with a kiss, that turning, you would come back to me who have come so far in search of you. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, turn back, turn back to the Lord your God!”

Tonight our Priest begins His ascent: the solemn procession to the high place of His preaching: to the noble Tree from which His voice will go out through all the earth.

Tonight our Priest, without leaving us, goes into the hidden sanctuary beyond the veil (Hebrews 6:19); He appears in the presence of God on our behalf (Hebrews 9:23), taking not the blood of goats and calves but His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12).

Tonight the Lamb without blemish is set before us. Tonight His Blood is given, not to be smeared on doorposts and lintels, but to sanctify our lips and moisten every parched tongue; to warm every heart grown cold with a libation of fire; to give sweetness for bitterness, and boldness for fear.

Those marked by the Blood of Lamb, those with the Blood of the Lamb wet upon their lips and fragrant on their breath have passed from death to life.

Every mouth sanctified by the Blood is, in the Father’s eyes, the mouth of the First-Born Son. Every prayer uttered from Blood-blessed lips, every kiss offered, every sigh and every groan, the Father receives as coming from the Son. «When that day comes, you will learn for yourselves that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you» (John 14:20).

The psalmist too sang of the Chalice and of the Blood: I will take the chalice of salvation; and I will call upon the name of the Lord (Psalm 115:13). Lifted up, it is our thanksgiving: a sun blazing red against the sky. Pressed to our lips, it is our salvation: the antidote, the remedy, one drop of which is enough to cure this weary world of every ill.

The Apostle handed on to us what had had been handed on to Him. O humble and glorious Tradition! Ours it is to receive what He received, (to transmit and not to betray,) to cherish what He cherished, to obey the commandment He obeyed, to adore the mystery He adored.

«This is my body, given up for you. Do this for a commemoration of me. . . . This chalice is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me» (1 Corinthians 11:24-25).

This is the night of the new priesthood. Awed they are, not quite understanding and not quite misunderstanding the fearful spectacle of God bent prostrate at their feet. He, sinless, kneels to absolve the sinner while the sinner, seated, has nought to offer but two bare journey-worn feet and the story they tell.

«It is not for thee to know, now, what I am doing; but thou wilt understand it afterwards . . . . I have been setting you an example, which will teach you in your turn to do what I have done for you» (John 13:7, 15).

Feet they will wash, kneeling before them, but more than feet, hearts caked with the hard crust of sin, and polluted souls, and faces bearing the traces of blood and tears.

Then we did not know what He was doing, but now we understand the mystic absolution. «Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained» (John 20:22-23).

For us, no boasting but in what Love has left us: the Bread and the Chalice making present His Sacrifice; and priests with feet washed clean and anointed hands to pronounce the Absolution, to lift high the Oblation.

And behind the sacramental veils shines the Face for which we yearn: the Face of immolated Purity, the Face of Beauty humbled, the Face of the Priest, the Face of the Victim, the Face of holiness, the Face of Crucified and Triumphant Love.

In looking, adore Him. In adoring, look at Him. And so, pass over from what is old to what is new, from the land of heavy burdens to the land of freedom, from darkness to life, from sin to holiness, from groans to jubilations, from tears to laughter, from sorrow to bliss, from combat to peace, from struggle to rest, from death to life It is the Passover of the Lord (Exodus 12:11).