Jun 30, 2015

Adult Formation: Catholic Commentary on the Gospel of John - The Washing of the Feet, Session 8

Session 9 of our series on Catholic Commentary on the Gospel of St John, in which we consider the washing of the feet and the Last Supper as related in the Fourth Gospel.

We see the connection between the washing of feet and the institution of the priesthood and of the Holy Eucharist.

Handout is below the audio recording.

Listen online [here]!


Catholic Commentary on the Gospel of St John
Session 9 – The Last Supper and Washing of Feet

I.                   The Last Supper: John compared to the other Gospels
a. What is absent from St. John’s Gospel
      St John does not include the institution narrative of the Holy Eucharist at the Last                                           Supper. Because this mystery was already presented in chapter 6 where our Lord                     clearly taught the truth of his Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament.
b. What is present only in St. John’s Gospel
      1. St. John alone tells us of the washing of the feet.
      2. St. John alone discusses the disciple resting on the heart of the Lord
      3. St. John relates a great deal more of the discourses of Jesus at the Last Supper.

II.                The Washing of the Feet
a. When did this happen during the Supper?
And supper being over, when Satan had put it into the heart of Judas, the son of Simon the Iscariot, to betray Him. After the legal supper and the common supper too, before the Sacred Supper—the institution of the Eucharist—Christ washed the feet of His disciples; for by this washing He wished to show with how great purity and humility we ought to approach the Eucharist. Observe that Christ partook of a triple supper with His disciples, the ceremonial, the ordinary supper, and the Supper of the Eucharist. In families of ample means, the lamb being insufficient to satisfy the hunger of so many persons, there usually followed the ordinary supper, at which they ate other kinds of meat. And so Christ washed the feet of the Apostles after the two former suppers and before the third. And hence it is clear this washing of feet was not merely the ordinary usage of the Jews according to which they were accustomed to wash the feet of their guests, but a sacramental ablution, by which Christ was preparing His disciples for the reception of the Eucharist, converting the ordinary usage into a sacred ceremony.” (Cornelius a Lapide)

b. What is the meaning of the washing of the feet?
At the Last Supper, Jesus gave the Church these two gifts: The Eucharist and the Priesthood. When the Lord washed the feet of his Twelve Apostles, this called to mind the ritual washing with which Aaron and his sons were cleansed before being ordained priests (Leviticus 8).

III.             The Holy Eucharist: John and Judas
a. The first instance of concelebration
“As stated above (Article 1), when a priest is ordained he is placed on a level with those who received consecrating power from our Lord at the Supper. And therefore, according to the custom of some Churches, as the apostles supped when Christ supped, so the newly ordained co-celebrate with the ordaining bishop.” (St Thomas, ST III, q.82, a.2)

b. St. John, resting on the Lord’s heart

c. The bread Judas took
The bread I have dipped.—Observe that Judas was present at the celebration of the Passover, and also of the Eucharist; and received the latter together with the other Apostles, as SS. Augustine, Chrysostom, Cyril, and others show. Indeed some have thought that this bread which He had dipped was the Eucharist, but erroneously; for Christ did not consecrate bread which He had dipped, but dry bread, and likewise pure wine and unmixed (with bread). Christ, after the Holy Communion, took from the table a morsel of the bread that remained, dipped it into some little dainty sauce that remained on the table, for it is not fitting that at a banquet dry bread should be given to a guest by the host, and gave it to Judas, that by this sign He might indicate him to John as the traitor. The other apostles did not hear the words of Christ to John about this way of pointing out the traitor, He having spoken quietly to John in his ear.” (Cornelius a Lapide)
“Without any doubt Judas did not receive Christ's body in the dipped bread; he received mere bread. Yet as Augustine observes (Tract. lxii in Joan.), "perchance the feigning of Judas is denoted by the dipping of the bread; just as some things are dipped to be dyed. If, however, the dipping signifies here anything good" (for instance, the sweetness of the Divine goodness, since bread is rendered more savory by being dipped), "then, not undeservedly, did condemnation follow his ingratitude for that same good." And owing to that ingratitude, "what is good became evil to him, as happens to them who receive Christ's body unworthily."
And as Augustine says (Tract. lxii in Joan.), "it must be understood that our Lord had already distributed the sacrament of His body and blood to all His disciples, among whom was Judas also, as Luke narrates: and after that, we came to this, where, according to the relation of John, our Lord, by dipping and handing the morsel, does most openly declare His betrayer."” (St Thomas, ST III, q.81,a.2, ad 3)

d. Did Judas make the first unworthy Communion?
“Hilary, in commenting on Matthew 26:17, held that Christ did not give His body and blood to Judas. And this would have been quite proper, if the malice of Judas be considered. But since Christ was to serve us as a pattern of justice, it was not in keeping with His teaching authority to sever Judas, a hidden sinner, from Communion with the others without an accuser and evident proof. lest the Church's prelates might have an example for doing the like, and lest Judas himself being exasperated might take occasion of sinning. Therefore, it remains to be said that Judas received our Lord's body and blood with the other disciples, as Dionysius says (Eccl. Hier. iii), and Augustine (Tract. lxii in Joan.).” (St Thomas, ST III, q.81, a.2)
“The wickedness of Judas was known to Christ as God; but it was unknown to Him, after the manner in which men know it. Consequently, Christ did not repel Judas from Communion; so as to furnish an example that such secret sinners are not to be repelled by other priests.” (St Thomas, ST III, q.81, a.2, ad 2)

e. The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, at the Last Supper and During the Passion
      1. Did Jesus receive the Eucharist himself? “Jerome says (Ad Hedib., Ep. xxx), "The Lord Jesus Christ, Himself the guest and banquet, is both the partaker and what is eaten." […] Because Christ Himself was the first to fulfill what He required others to observe: hence He willed first to be baptized when imposing Baptism upon others: as we read in Acts 1:1: "Jesus began to do and to teach." Hence He first of all took His own body and blood, and afterwards gave it to be taken by the disciples.” (St Thomas, ST III, q.81, a.1
      2. What was the state of Jesus’ Real Presence at the Last Supper? His body and blood were united under each species, but were not glorified nor, especially, were they impassible.

      3. What would have been the state of Jesus’ Real Presence if an Host has been kept in a pix on Good Friday after the Lord’s death? His body and blood would not have been united, nor would his soul have been present in either species, though his divinity surely would have remained with both the body and the blood. He would have been dead in the Eucharist.