Joseph A. Komonchak April 17, 2014 - 7:39am
“Before the feast of Passover [Pascha], Jesus, knowing that his hour had come that he should pass out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1). Pascha, brothers and sisters, is not, as some think, a Greek but a Hebrew word, but in this word the two languages come together in a most appropriate way. Because the Greek verb for “to suffer” is paschein, it has been thought that Pascha means “suffering” [passio]. In its own language, Hebrew, however, Pascha means a passage, and for that reason the people of God first celebrated Pascha when they fled from Egypt and passed across the Red Sea (Ex 24:29). Now that prophetical symbol has been completed in reality when Christ is led like a lamb to the slaughter (Is 53:7); his blood marks the lintels of our gates, that is, his cross is signed upon our foreheads, we are freed from the ruin of this world as if from an Egyptian captivity or destruction, and we enact that most salutary passage when we pass from the devil to Christ and from this unstable world to the solidly founded Kingdom. We pass to God in his permanence lest we pass away with this passing world. Praising God for this grace given us, the Apostle says, “He rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us across into the Kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col 1:13). ....
But why should we wonder that he rose from supper and laid aside his garments, who, being in the form of God, emptied himself? And why should we wonder, if he girded himself with a towel who took upon himself the form of a servant and was found in the likeness of a man? Why wonder if he poured water into a basin with which to wash his disciples' feet, who poured his blood upon the earth to wash away the filth of their sins? Why wonder, if with the towel with which he was girded he wiped the feet he had washed, who with the very flesh that clothed him laid a firm pathway for the footsteps of his evangelists?...
All that suffering of his is our cleansing. About to suffer death, he performed his act of service beforehand, and not only for those for whom he was about to undergo death, but even for the one who was about to hand him over to that death. So great is the usefulness of human lowliness, that divine loftiness commended it by its own example. Lofty man would have perished for ever unless a lowly God had found him. The Son of Man came to seek and to save what had been lost. As we had been lost by imitating the devil’s lofty pride, let us, now that we have been found, imitate the Redeemer’s lowliness. (Augustine, In Ioannem Tr. 55, 1 and 7; PL 35, 1785-1786, 1787)
About the Author
Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.