• The Holy Year: Meditative Contemplations of Seasons and Festivals

    by  • 8 February 2019 • Religion • 0 Comments

    In our hurried, everyday lives, time of day and even seasons can blur together, leaving us distanced from the natural world and spiritual rhythms. The Holy Year is a visionary and practical exploration of thoughts and meditations which can help us engage with the changing moods of the year. Rittelmeyer’s descriptive sketches of the Christian festivals and subjects from the New Testament are offered as helpful spiritual signposts along the path of the year.

    The washing of the feet

    When a solemn festival begins, all the bells are set ringing. Thus a festive peal is rung in John’s Gospel (Ch 13) before the Washing of the Feet is performed, the deed with which Christ introduced the sublime Eucharist. Let us listen to the heavenly peals that seem to call the angels to the celebration.

    It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal …

    Christ rises from the great earthly meal of mankind. Not for enjoyment did he come, but to bring the sacred revelation of serving. He laid aside everything, except the one garment which he needed with which to serve. Do we see the transparency of the account? He does not speak, he acts. We behold as he completely adapts himself to human arrangements when he now does one thing, then the next, as servants do. So he fulfils deed for deed the meaner service like a sacrament.

    Voices are raised in the group of disciples, who wanted to see Christ differently. The whole world should be laid at the feet of Messiah – and now he goes and washes the feet of the others! Peoples should be subject to him – and now he bows down and fulfils the meanest service. The disciples had all wanted to fight for him – and now they sit and accept simple help. ‘You shall never wash my feet.’

    But Christ restrains, ‘You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ Golden tones from yet greater heights are blended in the chiming bells.

    ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. ‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord,” and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

    And then after the betrayer has gone out – not only of the room but out of the picture of humanity:

    Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

    Let us feel with the deepest powers of our soul what love this picture contains. It does not please itself as a feeling but a conscious ‘I’ is carrying free deeds down from peaceful heights.

    Judas is there, too. But he cannot cloud the shining revelation in any way. We forget that he is there. ‘Love your enemies’ (Mt 5:44) is shown just in this, that it does not notice him or react to him, but in word and deed includes him. Only finally after word and deed does a warning bell sound.

    A sacred fragrance is shed abroad from this love and fills the whole house where they sat. Whoever breathes this fragrance is in heaven; he is embraced with the life-giving air of a higher world. He feels breathless and his heart weighs heavy when he is obliged to live again on the earth, but yet in truth this need not be when he breathes this sacred air from within and lets it stream out.

    We see Christ walking around and celebrating this love as a Eucharist. In deep festal mood and yet in modest simplicity he raises up the simplest earthly deeds to divine worship and fills the simple earthly deed with all heaven’s glory. Highest holiness streams into lowly daily work, into the toil of the despised slave. Earthly walls fade away and over the meanest earthly deed stands a luminous temple.

    It is only from the soul that heaven can so burst open over the earth. The moment we drink the spirit of this love, heaven begins to shine around us for our fellow human beings.

    Do we behold the ‘I’ that is active here? Like sunlight it sets itself no bounds and yet rests securely within itself. It does not assert itself and yet is mighty in consent. It does not force its presence and yet it reveals itself triumphantly. The inspiring goodness of a human ‘I’ that is simultaneously Son of man and Son of God, strives to flow in our blood.

    Through this ‘I’ we can see God. Without a shadow of condescension this sacred kingly gesture reaches down from above and lifts us to itself.

    The history of Christianity has sometimes shown an enthusiasm for humility. One can understand such a feeling. But that kind of human experience is quite unaware of the high dignity that is now lent to man. We feel that Christ himself purifies us when we give ourselves up to this heavenly stream. ‘You are now clean!’ Here is love. Here is God.


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