Cleansing Fire

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Holy Week Part III: Day of Preparation

March 27th, 2018, Promulgated by Diane Harris

The three Synoptic Gospels remark about preparation for the Passover meal, i.e. The Last Supper. Matthew 26:7, Mark 14:12, and Luke 22:9 recall the need to “prepare” for the meal. Jesus, knowing Judas’ heart, gives specific instructions which, even if overheard by Judas, do not convey the information he needs; i.e. WHERE is this Passover meal to be held, which would facilitate finding and arresting Christ before the proper time. And that time  must be after the institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday night.

We look then at the seven verses of Luke 22:7-13 (RSV):

“Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the passover for us, that we may eat it.” They said to Him, “Where will You have us prepare it?” He said to them, “Behold, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house which he enters, and tell the householder, ‘The Teacher says to you, ‘Where is the guest room, where I am to eat the passover with My disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished; there make ready.” And they went, and found it as He had told them; and they prepared the passover.”

While the Gospel of John does not recount this exchange in advance of the supper, words to which John obviously had been privy since he was ‘sent’ with Peter, his Gospel seems to build on the need for preparation. As the last written of the four, it goes beyond the physical preparation to a spiritual cleansing to receive their First Eucharist. That cleansing is the foot-washing ritual by which Christ washes the feet of His guests, acting as both host and as lowly slave. So too, extending the sign of contradiction, He will be priest and victim.

The question of preparation

The biblical question of “Where shall we prepare?” becomes for us today “How shall we prepare?” It is a question to be asked well in advance. The good pastoring by our bishop, with prolonged confession times available, puts special emphasis on receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation close to the Feast. But we need to look at ourselves again for the fine-tuning of washing (in a sense) our own feet of even any venial sins picked up since that recent confession, to be as ‘clean’ as possible for the Great Triduum Feast. Since Holy Mass can bring us absolution of venial sins, we also might consider whether or not that isn’t the best spiritual preparation for Holy Thursday, i.e. Mass on the Wednesday of Holy Week, sometimes called “Spy Wednesday,” for one cannot separate preparing well from receiving well the Eucharistic Gift.

Impediment to Preparedness

It may be that one of the very significant impediments to preparedness for the Great Triduum is our own individual inability to forgive others. That conclusion is consistent with the Lord’s including in His instruction on how to pray: “…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us….” (Catechism) and the liturgical tradition of the Church. There are many things we are taught “what” to do, but not always “how” to do them. How to forgive others (and how to discern) are two of the more difficult things to learn. About finding understanding and motivation to forgive others, St. Thomas More’s reflection is one of the most powerful. We might even say that no Lent should go by without re-reading his words, composed during his imprisonment in the Tower of London, preparing to be executed by Henry the VIII, whom he had served well and faithfully. Here it is from pages 142-3 of “The Sadness of Christ.” (Sir Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher are the saints who are co-patrons of the Diocese of Rochester.)

How to Treat Those who Wrong Us by Sir Thomas More

Sir Thomas More, Knight and Chancellor

Sir Thomas More,
Knight and Chancellor

“Bear no malice or evil will to any man living. For either the man is good or wicked.  If he is good and I hate him, then I am wicked.

If he is wicked, either he will amend and die good and go to God, or live wickedly and die wickedly and go to the devil. And then let me remember that if he be saved, he will not fail (if I am saved too, as I trust to be) to love me very heartily, and I shall then in like manner love him.

And why should I now, then, hate one for this while who shall hereafter love me forever more, and why should I be now, then, an enemy to him with whom I shall in time be coupled in eternal friendship?

And, on the other side, if he will continue to be wicked and be damned, then is there such outrageous eternal sorrow before him that I may well think myself a deadly cruel wretch if I would not now rather pity his pain than malign his person.

If one would say that we may with good conscience wish an evil man harm lest he should do harm to other folk who are innocent and good, I will not now dispute upon that point, for that root has more branches to be well weighed and considered than I can now conveniently write (having no other pen than a coal).

But truly will I give counsel to every good friend of mine that unless he be put in such a position as to punish an evil man in his charge by reason of his office, he should leave the desire of punishing to God and to such other folk who are so grounded in charity and so fast cleaved to God that no secretly malicious or cruel affection can creep in and undermine them under the cloak of a just and a virtuous zeal. But let us that are no better than men of a mean sort ever pray for such merciful amendment in other folk as our own conscience shows us that we have need of in ourselves.”

 

A Godly Instruction, Written by Sir Thomas More, Knight and Chancellor

While He Was Prisoner in the Tower of London in 1534.

 

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