In my church parish, we celebrate Jesus washing the disciples feet at mass on Holy Thursday, as many other parishes do. Over the course of the next several days, I will be posting excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI’s newest book – Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week – on some of the major events. Here is a passage that struck me in his reading of the washing of the feet; it is the conclusion of the section:
Looking back over the whole chapter of the washing of the feet, we may say that in this humble gesture, expressing the entire ministry of Jesus’ life and death, the Lord stands before us as the servant of God–he who for our sake became one who serves, who carries our burden and so grants us true purity, the capacity to draw close to God. In the second Suffering Servant Song from Isaiah, there is a phrase that in some sense anticipates the essence of John’s theology of the Passion: The Lord “said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified'” (49:3; the Greek word in the Septuagint version doxasthesomai).
Indeed, Saint John’s whole Passion narrative is built on this connection between humble service and glory (doxa): it is in Jesus’ downward path, in his abasement even to the Cross, that God’s glory is seen, that the Father and, in him, Jesus are glorified. In a brief scene on “Palm Sunday”–in what might be termed the Johannine version of the Gethsemane story–all this is summed up: “‘Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? “Father, save me from this hour”? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again'” (12:27-28). The hour of the Cross is the hour of the Father’s true glory, the hour of Jesus’ true glory.