All Day (Wednesday)
Meditations for Lent By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press Wednesday of Holy Week Washed of Our Sins In the warmer regions of the East, bathing was frequent, and after one had washed in
Meditations for Lent
By: Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
Courtesy of Sophia Institute Press
Wednesday of Holy Week
Washed of Our Sins
In the warmer regions of the East, bathing was frequent, and after one had washed in the morning and then again during the day, all that remained for the evening was to wash the feet so that the grime of one’s comings and goings could be cleansed. This is the sense in which we are to take the words of the Spouse in the Song of Songs: “I had bathed my feet, how could I soil them?” (Song 5:3).
Jesus makes use of this image to teach his followers that after they have been washed of their greater sins, they still need to take care to purify themselves of those small sins they commit during the normal course of life. A soul that loves God never finds anything that offends him to be minor. If we neglect to purify ourselves of these faults, they will place our soul in a deadly state, imperceptibly weakening its powers in such a way that little strength will remain to resist great temptations, which can be defeated only by very ardent charity. “He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not all of you” (John 13:10). By these words, Jesus teaches us that we are not permitted to neglect lesser sins, for this is what he wished to signify by the washing of feet.
In order to peer deeper into this mystery, we should see that the care he takes to wash the feet of the Apostles at the moment when he is about to institute the Eucharist teaches us that the time when we ought to purge ourselves of our venial sins is when we are preparing for Communion, that most perfect union with Jesus Christ. To this union our sins are so great an obstacle that if we were to die before having expiated them, the Beatific Vision would be delayed, perhaps for centuries. We ought then to feel all the more obliged to purify ourselves of these sins before Communion, because it is by Communion that they are chiefly removed, the greater ones having been removed by the sacrament of Penance.
Neglect of these faults can proceed to such an excess that not only does our attachment to these sins become dangerous — which it always is — but even mortal. For the one who cares only about the sins that would damn him shows that it is punishment alone that he fears and that he does not truly love justice, that is to say, he does not love God as he is obliged to do. Such a one should fear to lose what remains to him of the divine fire of charity.
Let us then carefully wash ourselves, not only our hands and our head, but also our feet, before approaching the Eucharist. Jesus teaches his Apostles the seriousness of this obligation when he says to them, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me” (John 13:8). This is not only because our sins retard the beatific vision and our perfect union with God, but because to neglect to wash them may bring a dangerous chill between our soul and Christ, and even become deadly.
Wash yourself, Christian, wash yourself of all your sins, even the least of them, when you are about to approach the holy table. Wash your feet with care. Renew yourself entirely, lest you eat the body of the Savior unworthily. Even when we are not completely unworthy — with that indignity that renders us unworthy of the Body and Blood of the Savior — we may still be unworthy to receive great graces, without which we cannot overcome great weaknesses, nor the great temptations of which life is full.
Lord, wash my feet, so that I can say with the Spouse, “I have bathed my feet, how could I soil them?” Purity is a magnet for attracting purity: the whiter one’s clothing, the more noticeable are the stains upon it. The cleaner one is, the more one should avoid becoming soiled. Let us desire to be counted among those of whom it is written that they are “spotless” before the throne of God (Rev. 14:5). To this goal we should aspire, remembering the lovely teaching of St. Augustine that although we cannot live here below without sin, we can leave this life without sin, because while our sins are many, the remedies for healing them are not wanting.