<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> TRACTATE 55 * <p> <i>On John 13.1-5</i> <p> <p> THE LORD'S SUPPER according to John must, with his help, be commented upon in tractates that are now due and must be explained as he shall grant us the ability. "Now before the feast of Pascha, Jesus, knowing that his hour has come for him to pass over from this world to the Father, since he had loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end." [The word] <i>Pascha</i> is not, as some think, a Greek word, but a Hebrew one; yet most conveniently there occurs in this name a certain congruity between the two languages. Because in Greek [the word for] "to suffer" is [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], for this reason <i>Pascha</i> has been thought of as a passion, as though this name has been derived from [a Greek word for] "suffering." But in its own language, that is, in Hebrew, <i>Pascha</i> means "a passing over." For this reason the people of God celebrated the <i>Pascha</i> for the first time when, fleeing from Egypt, they <i>passed over</i> the Red Sea. So now that prophetic figure has been fulfilled in truth when Christ is led as a sheep to the slaughter. By his blood, after our doorposts have been smeared [with it], that is, by the sign of his cross, after our foreheads have been marked [with it], we are freed from the ruin of this world as though from the captivity or destruction in Egypt. And we effect a most salutary passing over when we pass over from the devil to Christ, and from this tottering world to his most solidly established kingdom. And therefore we pass over to God who endures so that we may not pass over with the passing world. Concerning this grace conferred upon us, the Apostle, praising God, says, "Who has rescued us from the power of darkness and has brought us over into the kingdom of the Son of his love." <p> (2) This name, therefore, that is, <i>Pascha</i>, which in Latin, as I said, is rendered "a passing over," the blessed Evangelist, as though interpreting it for us, says, "Before the feast of Pascha, Jesus, knowing that his hour has come for him to <i>pass over</i> from this world to the Father." Look, <i>Pascha</i>. Look, the passing over. From where and to where? "From this world," of course, "to the Father." Hope has been given to the members in the Head because without a doubt, when he passed over, they would follow. What then do those lacking faith and those estranged from this Head and from its body [do]? Do they not themselves also pass over, since they do not remain? Clearly they themselves also pass over! But it is one thing to pass over <i>from</i> the world and another to pass over <i>with</i> the world. It is one thing to pass over to the Father, it is another to pass over to the enemy. For the Egyptians also passed over; yet they did not pass over through the sea into the kingdom, but into the sea to destruction. <p> 2. Therefore "Jesus, knowing that his hour has come for him to pass over from this world to the Father, since he had loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end." So that they themselves too, of course, might by his love pass over from this world where they were to their Head, who had passed over from here. For what is "to the end" except to Christ? "For Christ is the end of the Law," the Apostle says, "to justice for everyone who believes." An end that perfects, but does not kill; an end that we are definitely to reach, but not where we are to perish. So it must be explicitly understood: "Christ our Pascha has been sacrificed," 8 He is our end, to him is our passing over. <p> (2) I see that these words of the Gospel can also be taken in a somewhat human way, so that, as Christ loved his own right up to his death, that is what "he loved them to the end" may seem to be. This view is human, not divine; for he who loves us always and without end has not loved us just this far. Far be it that he who did not end with death ended his loving with death! Even after his death that proud and ungodly rich man loved his five brothers, and should Christ be thought to have loved us only to the point of his death? Far be it, dearly beloved! In vain would he come even to death in loving us if he were to end his love for us with death. Unless perhaps "he loved them to the end" ought so to be understood, that he loved them so much that he died for them. In fact, he attested to this, saying, "No one has greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Indeed we do not disallow that "he loved to the end" be understood thus, that is, love itself led him even to death. <p> 3. "And after the supper was made," [the Gospel] says, "when the devil had already put it into the heart that Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, hand him over, knowing that the Father had handed all things over to him and that he came from God and is going to God, he rises from the supper and lays aside his garments; and when he had taken a towel, he tied it around himself. Then he put water into a basin and began to wash the feet of his disciples and to dry them with the towel he had tied around himself." We ought not to understand "after the supper was made" as though it were finished and completed; for they were still supping when the Lord rose and washed his disciples' feet. For afterwards he reclined again and afterwards he gave a piece of bread to his betrayer, when the supper was still not yet finished, that is while there was still bread on the table. Therefore "after the supper was made" meant "already prepared and brought to the table for the use of those dining together." <p> 4. Now as to what it says, "When the devil had already put it into the heart that Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, hand him over." If you ask what has been put into the heart of Judas, it is this, of course, "that he hand him over." This putting11 is a spiritual suggestion; it occurs not through the ear but through a thought, and in this way not bodily but spiritually. For what is said to be spiritual should not always be taken in praise. The Apostle knew certain spiritual forces of wickedness in the regions above, against which he attests that there is a wrestling for us; but there would not even be malevolent spiritual forces unless there were also malevolent spirits. For spiritual forces are named from spirit. <p> (2) How do these things happen, that diabolic suggestions are dispatched and intermingled with human thoughts so that a man may think of them as his own? And one must not doubt also that likewise good suggestions come undetectably and spiritually from a good spirit; but it makes a difference to whichever of them the human mind consents, whether deservedly forsaken by divine help or aided through grace. Therefore it had already happened in Judas' heart through the devil's instigation that the disciple should betray his Master, but [a Master] whom he had not learned was God. For he had already come to the banquet as such a man, a spy on his Shepherd, a plotter against his Savior, the seller of his Redeemer. Already he had come as such and he was seen and endured; and he thought he was not known because he was deceived in regard to him whom he wished to deceive. But he was knowingly using him who did not know, this man into [whose] very heart he had looked. <p> 5. "Knowing that the Father had handed all things over to him." And so that traitor, too. For if he did not have him in his hands, he would not, to be sure, use him as he wished. Accordingly, the traitor had already been handed over to him whom he desired to betray; and by his handing over he was doing an evil in such a way that a good, which he knew not, would be effected from him who was handed over. For the Lord knew what he would do for his friends, he who patiently used his enemies. And so the Father had handed all things over to him, both evil things for their employment and good things for their effect. "Knowing also that he has come from God and is going to God," neither forsaking God when he came from there, nor us when he returned. <p> 6. Therefore, knowing these things, "He rises from the supper and lays aside his garments; and when he had taken a towel, he tied it to himself. Then he pours water into a basin and began to wash the feet of his disciples and to dry them with the towel he had tied around himself." We ought, very dearly beloved, to pay diligent attention to the Evangelist's meaning. For, about to speak of the Lord's great lowliness, he first wanted to affirm his eminence. And to this pertain the words: "Knowing that the Father had handed all things over to him, and that he has come from God and is going to God." Therefore, since the Father had handed all things over to him, he washed, not the hands of the disciples, but their feet; and although he knew that he had come from God and was going to God, he fulfilled the office, not of God, the Lord, but of man, the servant. Further, to this also pertains what he wanted to say first about his betrayer who had already come as such and was not unknown to him, that this also might be added to the very huge heap of humiliation, 14 namely that he did not even disdain to wash the feet of that man whose hands he already foresaw in crime. <p> 7. But what wonder is it if he who, though he was in the form of God, emptied himself, rose from the supper, and laid aside his clothes? And what wonder is it if he who, taking the form of a servant, was found in outward appearance as a man tied a towel around himself? What wonder is it if he put water in a basin with which he might wash the feet of his disciples, he who poured his blood upon the ground, with which he might wash the uncleanness of sins? What wonder is it if with the towel that he tied around himself he dried the feet that he had washed, he who by the flesh with which he was clothed made firm the footsteps of the Evangelists? And indeed, in order that he might tie the towel around himself, he laid aside his garments; but when he emptied himself that he might take the form of a servant, he did not lay aside what he had, but he took what he did not have. At his crucifixion, of course, he was stripped of his garments; and when he was dead, he was wrapped in linens. And that whole Passion of his is our cleansing. Therefore, as he was about to suffer the ultimate hurt, he first performed services, not only for those for whom he was about to undergo death, but also for him who was going to betray him to death. For so great is the utility of human humility that even the Divine Sublimity commended it by his example, because proud man would be lost forever unless the humble God found him. "For the Son of Man has come to seek and save what was lost." But he was lost, having followed the pride of the deceiver; therefore, having been found, let him follow the humility of the Redeemer. <p> <p> TRACTATE 56 <p> <i>On John 13.6-10</i> <p> <p> WHEN THE LORD was washing the feet of his disciples, "He comes to Simon Peter, and Peter says to him, 'Lord, do you wash my feet?'" For who would not tremble in fear to have his feet washed by the Son of God? Therefore, although for a servant to contradict the Lord, for a man [to contradict] God, was an act of great audacity, yet Peter preferred to do this than to allow his feet to be washed by his Lord and God. <p> (2) Nor ought we to think that Peter among the others dreaded and refused this, while the others willingly and dispassionately allowed it to be done to them before him. For these words of the Gospel are rather easily so understood because when it was said, "He began to wash the feet of his disciples and to dry them with the towel he had tied around himself," then it was conjoined, "He comes to Simon Peter," as if he had already washed some and after them had come to the first. For who would not know that the first of the Apostles was the most blessed Peter? But one must not so understand that after some he came to him, but that he began from him. <p> (3) Therefore, when he began to wash the feet of his disciples, he came to him from whom he began, that is, to Peter. And then Peter trembled in fear at what each of them would also have trembled at, and he said, "Lord, do you wash my feet?" What is "you"? What is "my"? These words must be pondered rather than spoken, lest perhaps what the mind conceives from these words, to whatever extent it is worthy, the tongue may not even explain. <p> 2. But "Jesus answered and said to him, 'What I do you do not know now, but you will know later.'" And yet that one, terrified by the depth of the Lord's deed, does not allow what he does not know the reason for to be done, but he still does not wish to see the humbled Christ down at his feet; he cannot bear it. "You shall not ever," he says, "wash my feet." What is "ever"? I shall never bear this, I shall never allow it, I shall never permit it. For what never happens, of course, does not ever happen. <p> (2) Then the Savior, terrifying the sick resisting man with a risk to his salvation, says, "If I do not wash you, you will have no part with me." So it was said, "If I do not wash you," when the question was about feet alone, just as it is usually said, "You are stepping on me," when only the foot is stepped on. But he, confused by his love and his fear, and dreading more that Christ be denied to him than that he be humbled down at his feet, says, "Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and head." Since you so threaten that my limbs must be washed by you, I not only do not withhold my lowest [limbs] but I also yield up my main ones. Lest you say that no part is to be taken by me with you, I deny no part of my body to be washed by you. <p> 3. "Jesus says to him, 'The man who has bathed has no need to wash except for his feet; he is wholly clean.'" At this someone may perhaps be disturbed and say, "Why, if he is wholly clean, what need has he even to wash his feet?" But the Lord knew what he was saying even if our weakness does not penetrate his secrets. Nevertheless, as far as he deigns to instruct and to teach us from his law, according to my capacity, according to my little measure, even I, with his help, may answer something about the profundity of this question; and first I shall show most easily that this expression is not self-contradictory. For who cannot most correctly say thus: "he is wholly clean besides the feet"? But he speaks more elegantly if he says, "is wholly clean except for the feet," which is just as effective. Therefore the Lord says this: "He has no need to wash except for the feet; he is wholly clean." Wholly, of course, besides the feet, or except for the feet, which he needs to wash. <p> 4. But what is this? What does it mean? What is this need that we seek? The Lord says it, Truth speaks it, that even the man who has bathed has need to wash his feet. What, my brothers, what are you thinking? Except that a man is wholly washed indeed in hallowed baptism, not besides his feet, but altogether wholly. Nevertheless, when life goes on afterwards amid human affairs, naturally the ground is stepped on. Therefore the human affections themselves, without which one does not live in this mortal state, are, as it were, the feet whereby we are affected in consequence of our human condition; and we are so affected that, if we say that we do not have sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. <p> (2) Therefore he who intercedes for us washes our feet for us daily. And in the Lord's prayer itself we confess daily that we need to wash our feet, that is, to direct the ways of our spiritual steps, when we say, "Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors." For "if we should confess our sins," as it was written, surely he who washed the feet of his disciples "is faithful and just, who is to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from every wrong," that is, right down to our feet, on which we go about upon the earth. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>TRACTATES ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 55-111</b> Copyright © 1994 by THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA PRESS. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.