Holy Thursday has always been so special to me. I loved the act of washing the feet – Christ was truly a servant to all of us. Our priest used to choose different parishioners and often a deacon or two. And the reading of the Gospels about the inception of Holy Communion, well, it has always moved me. The part I don’t like to dwell on involves Judas. Betrayal like that is so very difficult to comprehend. The Vespers of St. Basil on Thursday concentrate on this betrayal and some of the words resonate deeply with me, and yet, I somehow am able to understand it, too, in light of this world. The lesson for me here, is to forgive and to allow people to treat me as they see fit, when they are acting as a betrayal to me, and the person I am. There are so many factions in our world today. Tempers are high. And things are tense. But, I allow that action of others to walk with me, while I accompany Christ on this Holy Week journey. I do not try to correct them – it is done. Just as Judas was thrown his silver. And I walk with Christ, towards forgiveness of others. “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”
In today’s world, we sort of have religious-light. We don’t want to look at the ugly side of our faith. The things that happened to the faithful, and what they had to overcome, is almost beyond our comprehension. We are pretty wimpy these days. The hardships in both Old- and New Testament times are outside our common experiences. Very few people live in dirt-floored houses where they have to wash their feet when entering and leaving. And that aspect alone separates us from the reasoning behind why Christ washes the feet of His Disciples. Plus, we are a throw-away culture and we are, in many ways, a simple culture – we get up to our alarms, we cram some breakfast down before that drive to work, we then work and commute home, we eat our dinners, watch the tube, go to bed, and start all over again tomorrow. In addition, we readily believe pretty much anything we hear from government officials, pastors in pulpits, the news programs blaring on and on…we accept so much at face value. Very rarely do any of us dig deeper than the headlines for pretty much any topic. And to be honest, the preachers up front in most our Churches know our attention spans are short and we prefer to not have our feathers ruffled, as they say. Well, Holy Thursday is one of the first moments when Great Lent starts to lead us towards the ultimate sacrifice – Christ, Who offered Himself on the Cross for each of us. Holy Thursday introduces us to service – Christ, our God, washes the feet of His disciples. Then He institutes Holy Communion, and promptly following that, Judas betrays Him. And this day is all about betrayal. Judas breaks bread with the Lord and “so, too, this Godless man, while still bearing in his mouth the heavenly bread, contrived the betrayal of the Savior.”
Weirdly enough, we have all experienced some of this same trauma in our lives, perhaps even a very deep betrayal. We also know people who are walking miracles, and yet we aren’t even aware of it. Some of us carry scars no one can see. The “walking wounded” are all around us. This Holy Week, we are given an opportunity to identify our pain and our wounds with that of Christ. He came to bring peace, and love, and hope. And He was betrayed, scourged, and hung on a cross – all because He loves us that much. Oddly enough, I find Good Friday one of the most peaceful Liturgies to be a part of. It follows on the heels of betrayal and it is a sobering Liturgy. The prayers are deep, the Church is dark, the lonely sounds of the nails being hammered into that wood. I cry every time. Holy Week should be a week that stops us in our tracks and leaves us feeling so lonely – the only time Christ is not with us is between His Death and Resurrection. The Church is truly empty. And we leave Good Friday feeling bereft and alone. We are suffering in the loss of our Savior. And we can identify deeply with Him. We should also be able to feel our own pain intertwined with Christ. But the ultimate joy of Holy Week is that the sun does rise on our sorrow, and Our Lord is again with us. There is joy in the Son Rise.