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MEDITATIONS ON THE PASSION: THE FOURTH MEDITATION: How Our Lord Washed The Feet Of His Disciples

GIOTTO di Bondone 
No. 30 Scenes from the Life of Christ: 14. Washing of Feet 
1304-06

THE FOURTH MEDITATION  

How our Lord washed the feet of his Disciples

GOSPEL

Before the festival day of the pasch, Jesus knowing that his hour was come, that he should pass out of this world to the Father: having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And when supper was done, (the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray him,) Knowing that the Father had given him all things into his hands, and that he came from God, and goeth to God; He riseth from supper, and layeth aside his garments, and having taken a towel, girded himself. After that, he putteth water into a basin, and began to wash the feet of the disciples, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.He cometh therefore to Simon Peter. And Peter saith to him: Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered, and said to him: What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith to him: Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him: If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with me. Simon Peter saith to him: Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him: He that is washed, needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly. And you are clean, but not all. For he knew who he was that would betray him; therefore he said: You are not all clean. Then after he had washed their feet, and taken his garments, being set down again, he said to them: Know you what I have done to you? You call me Master, and Lord; and you say well, for so I am. If then I being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; you also ought to wash one another' s feet.For I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also..

FIGURES

And having brought them into the house, he fetched water, and they washed their feet, Gen. 43.

And immediately he offered Aaron and his sons: and when he had washed them, He vested the high priest with the strait linen garment, girding him with the girdle, and putting on him the violet tunic, and over it he put the ephod, Levit.8.

CONSIDERATIONS

1. Consider how Christ loved his Disciples til the end, and see how in manner of that great father Abraham of whom it is written, that is the greatest heat of the day he stood at the gate of his Tabernacle. Our Savior standeth at the gate,being now near the end of his life, wholly enflamed with love, and although he always exceeded in love,yet at the end of his life he showed far greater excess.And these are the excesses whereof Moses  & Elias talked together in the Mount Thabor,which was to be accomplished in Jerusalem. It was truly a great excess that God should abase himself for to wash the feet of men: It was likewise an excess that the Creator should give himself for food unto his creature: And it was also an excess that the Lord of the whole world,would vouchsafe to die on the Cross,for to give life unto his most vile servants. Our Lord therefore loved his Disciples to the end, for that in the end he showed them greater signs of his love,he loved them to the end,because he loved them perseverantly until the end, and moreover he loved them to the end,seeing that their love was it which brought him to end his life upon a Cross.

2. See how on the one side the Disciples,which were servants remain sitting,& the Lord of Lords,to whose name every knee doth bow, goeth about with such humility & devotion, bowing even to the earth now before one, now before another his sacred knees, and handling and washing with his most pure hands the odor and filth of their unclean feet,and afterward with so great love both wiping and kissing them. O blessed Disciples how greatly would my soul have desired to put her eyes & her mouth where you set your feet, seeing you put them in the same hands wherein stood the Angels and the Heavens,O my soul seeing that our Lord invited us with such love and charity, go thou also and put thyself in some corner behind the blessed Apostles and stay there until the end,and when our Lord cometh put forth the feet of thy unclean affections to be washed of him,for they which he washed not, shall have no part with him.

3. Consider how greatly astonished those simple Disciples might be seeing their Lord and Master, whom, both for his great sanctity and divine works, they most highly esteemed, to stand in manner of a most vile servant, washing the odor of their feet and especially humble Saint Peter, whose humility was such, that at the first miracle which he saw of our Savior in the taking of fish, reputing himself unworthy to have so holy a man in his boat, cried out saying,depart from me Lord, because I am a man  a sinner, the which also had by divine revelation so great light and knowledge of the divinity of Christ, that our Lord asking of his Disciples whom they thought him to be, Peter only amongst all the rest most boldly answered, thou art Christ the Son of the living GOD: wherefore what marvel is it,if seeing him now, to lie prostrate at his feet being altogether amazed and filled with wonder, he retired himself saying, Lord, doest thou wash my feet,as if he would have said, thou Son of the most highest, thou Lord of the universal world, thou the living and true GOD, unto whom worthily boweth every knee, in Heaven, in Earth,&in Hell, dost thou incline thyself tome a miserable man and a sinner, to me a most unworthy and vile servant of thine? over great in dignity it i that hand which created the Heavens and in whose power the Father hath put all things,should abase himself to the feet of a man, the highness of thy person & my profound misery permit me not ever to consent to this. O good Peter, wherefore doest thou marvel so much? certainly,if as thou well knowest the excellency and dignity of the son of God, thou didest likewise know the greatness of his charity, and the immeasurable zeal which he hath of the salvation:it would happily not seem to thee a great matter that he which for our love descended to take upon him the form of a servant. disdaineth not now in manner of a servant to wash the feet of men: but alas he will not leave off here, neither is his love contented with so small things, for this Lord which now thou seest so to humble himself as to wash thy feet with water, thou shalt see within short time afterward, with more profound humility,and with greater amazement to thee,go and place himself betwixt two thieves upon a most contemptible  tree for to make thee a bath with his own blood,and to give life unto thee and to the whole world by his death.  O my soul if this seem likewise unto thee, as unto Peter, over great indignity for so great a Majesty,and that he abase himself over much, consider how great was the excess of thy fault, seeing that it hath brought the God, and thy Creator unto such baseness and indignity.

4. Consider how whilest our Lord was washing the feet of his Disciples, they with great piety and devotion washed their face with abundance of tears, wherewithal likewise were cleansed and washed their souls: only Judas had his eyes dry & void of tears, even as his hart was void and empty of all kind of piety. Alas blessed Jesus what injury have you done unto this traitor that you humble yourself so much unto him, that taking his brutish feet into your divine hands,you wash them with so great humility, as though you asked him pardon? O Judas most malicious,O stony hart:which seeing they master kneeling on the ground to serve thee, yet notwithstanding perseveres in thy cruelty  and hardness: and more prevaileth in thy hart the greediness of money, then the example of such benignity and humility

5. What wonder was it to see, the King of Heaven, before whom the Angelical powers do tremble,and those incline themselves which sustain the world, to lie prostrate at the feet of most simple fishermen: And that which surpasseth all signs of love & humility,is to see him washing & cleansing in so loving a sort the feet of his betrayer.Truly my Lord you could not with any other remedy better cure our pride and swelling,then with this your excess of humility.  And how isit possible that miserable man should any more lift up his head and dare prefer himself before others, seeing the God of Majesty, in manner of a servant to lie  prostrate at the feet of sinners.

6. Then our Lord went from supper,and laid aside his garments,when as departing from that heavenly banquet,wherein with infinite felicity,he together with the Father and the holy Ghost was served and honored with Angels,he put off his Regal robes of glory, and exited  himself, descending into the womb of the Blessed Virgin:and then he girded  himself with a cloth or towel,when as taking upon himself the form of a servant, he put on our humanity, and then he put water into a basin, when as he poured forth his blood on the earth wherewith he washed away the filth & brutishness of our sins: then finally with a towel he wiped our feet when as in the  clean cloth of his humanity,he gathered together all the spot of our sins, according as the Prophet long before had said Et posuit Dominus in eo iniquitates omnium nostrorum. Our Lord laid upon him all our iniquities, whereby leaving us pure and clean,he himself remained as we see him on the Cross altogether bespotted & deformed, of whom marveling,with great reason the Angels said. Quare rubrum est indumentum tuum & vestimenta a tua sicut calcantium in torulari? Wherefore is thy clothing red, and thy garments like theirs which  tread grapes in the wine press? Great truly my Lord was your piety seeing that it cause you to desire with so great cost of your own life, the clean and purity of my soul.

7. I have given you an example said our Savior that as I have done so you do also. What have you done O most loving Lord,& what ought I miserable wretch to do your imitation? you loved me with most ardent charity, and so likewise you will have me to love you, you rose from table to wash the feet of your Disciples, and even so will you have me leave also my comforts and commodities for to serve & help my neighbors: You laid down your garments,that I should be ashamed to stand clothed with pride & disordinate passions,seeing how you disappareled yourself for an exercise of so great humility; You girded yourself with a most clean cloth and even so you will that I gird my loins with the sheet of chastity & cleanness of hart: Finally to your imitation I ought to wash the feet of my disciples,that is my senses and my disordinate affections, that as they have hitherto served the flesh,so now they begin to serve and obey unto the spirit,and if I shall do this, I have confidence in your piety that you will vouchsafe to received me, together with you holy Apostles unto your most delicate banquet

THE PRAYER

Thou shalt pray unto Christ our Lord, that as he for our example of humility,abased himself so much,  even as to wash the feet of his Traitor: so he gave thee grace to desire and rejoice to be servant to everyone,and to humble thyself at the feet of all men, although that they were contrary unto thee: and pray him likewise, by the merits of this his profound humility that he vouchsafe in such sort to purge and cleanse thy affections, that being perfectly purged, as well in the one as in the other of thy loves, that is towards God, and thy neighbor, thou mayest with more purity employ thyself in the service of his Majesty,and in helping other.

DOCUMENTS

1. We ought to procure for to have our hands & our head pure & clean,as the Apostles had,that is, we must endeavor that our works and conservation be holy, and that our intention be right and pure.

2. Let us procure by often Confession and penance continually to wash the feet of our soul from brutish thoughts,and from the love of earthly things,that we may have pat with Christ.

3. Christ desiring to exhort us to humility, first taught us with his own example,by washing the feet of his Apostles,and afterward with his words: to give us to understand, that they which are Superiors and guide unto others, ought first with their own example,and afterward with words instruct their subjects in virtue.

4. Then to the imitation of Christ, we wash the feet of our Brethren, and neighbors,when we pray for their sins when we pardon them their offenses, done against us, and when with our good example and holy instructions,we induce them to leave their sins and imperfections.

5. According to the example of Christ,we ought with great desire and gladness to embrace the works of charity and humility,seeing that no Christian ought to disdain the doings of that which Christ hath done,neither any servant ought to be ashamed,to undertake those service, wherein he hath seen his Lord and Master employ himself.

6. Let us be ashamed and confounded,seeing our Lord and master, stand striving with his Disciples to be inferior unto them, and to wash their feet in manner of a servant. And we silly worms of the earth, are ashamed to serve and seem inferior to others,but would be honored and respected.

7. Christ would not declare unto St.Peter the cause wherefore he washed their feet,until he had made an end thereof:even so in the things which God permitteth to happen in this life we ought not to care to know the cause, but to bear all things with patience, seeing that after in the end with our great fruit and comfort we shall know it.

8. They refuse to be washed of Christ and consequently shall have no part with him,which take not in good part, or else profit nothing by the correction or admonition which is given them of their superiors and spiritual fathers,and they likewise which despise, or else make resistance to the Divine inspirations.


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