Perhaps more than any other liturgy of the year, the liturgy of Holy Thursday is about intimacy. Intimacy revealed in a bath, a washing, and in a a meal. The bath occurs in the Chapter Room, where we commemorate John’s account of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet.
In John’s account of the washing of the feet, Jesus kneels on the floor in front of each disciple. One by one, the water of his life and love washes over each of them. No one is left out. Peter, even though initially, along with the others whose words are not recorded. Even Judas is not left out. All are washed. All are loved. Each one and all.
This evening’s liturgy holds before us, each one of us---a choice. That choice, fundamentally, at its core, is about vulnerability and intimacy, because it is about love. In some ways this choice may be more challenging, more real, more bodily than many of us are comfortable with. It is somewhat easy to talk and sing about love. In so doing we can easily forget or lose sight of, the challenge, the risk, the vulnerability and the intimacy involved in the washing and kissing of someone’s feet; and in the eating and drinking of the body and blood of Jesus together.
Intimacy can be frightening. It calls us to a place of vulnerability, risk and openness; a place in which we will certainly be changed and transformed; as transformed as the bread and wine. Intimacy is fundamentally about relationship, oneness, union and communion, with God, each other and ourselves. Intimacy is about how God loves. Jesus said to Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”
Brothers and sisters, such vulnerability, risk and intimacy is the way of Jesus Christ. It is the way of love. And such love is a choice. It is a choice that Jesus made in washing and feeding each one of the disciples gathered around him. And it a choice that he invites, no, commands us to make. “As I have loved you…you must love one another.” Jesus holds out to each one of us a stark reality. The choice to love or not to love. And to love, not some, but all. This is the choice that is before us. We cannot choose to love only those whom we like, who we think are deserving, for whom we have warm feelings, who look like us or act like us. It is an all or nothing proposition. If we do not love all, we love none.
Love for Jesus is about a choice. In Jesus’ teaching if you have feet, you get washed, regardless of where those feet have been or where they are going. Jesus first handed Judas the morsel before he left the group. That is the example and commandment he sets before us.
Photographs by Brother Brian. Reflection by Abbot Damian.