Great and Holy Thursday

Archbishop Seraphim : Homily
Following the Example of our Saviour
Great and Holy Thursday
1 April, 2010
1 Corinthians 11:23-32 ; Matthew 26:1-20 ;
John 13:3-17 ; Matthew 26:21-39 ;
Luke 22:43-45 ; Matthew 26:40-27:2


In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

These are most solemn days that we are passing through. We are accompanying our Saviour on His way to His voluntary Passion for us and for our salvation. While we are going on our way with Him, we can see ourselves in the behaviour of the disciples and apostles. Although we (as they) love Him and trust Him with our very lives, very often when there is pressure on us, we (as they) can easily be overcome by fear. We, ourselves, can pretend that we are not His followers and disciples. Out of fear, our behaviour can sometimes involve betraying the Lord as the Apostle Peter denied Him three times. Sometimes, we also run away, as the apostles did on this most awesome occasion. Yet, the Lord in His mercy understands everything. He understands our weakness. He understands that our love might have shallow roots. This was the case even with the apostles, who did not understand. It is ironic, that we, too, even at this distance of two millennia in time (and with innumerable examples of His saving love), very often still do not understand.

Today, our Saviour gives us three examples. First, He gives us the example of humility, and we, His followers, ought to be doing as He does. Today, He washes the feet of those who are His children, His followers. The One who is the Lord and the Teacher of all, washes the feet of His creatures. He is showing us that He is emptying Himself in love for us. In His love for us, this emptying of Himself never ceases. Drawing us near to Himself, calling us to Himself without forcing us, He is constantly stretching out His hands to us. He is beckoning us, receiving us, touching us, healing us, renewing us.

As our Saviour washed the feet of His disciples, so we, in our way, with the resources given to us, should do the same. It is not the custom in Canada or in the United States to wash people’s feet. It is interesting to notice how reluctant people are about having their feet washed. In a monastery, it is the normal experience that on this day, in imitation of Christ, an abbot would wash the feet of the monks (that is, twelve of them). In a cathedral, it is the place of the bishop to wash the feet of his parishioners. However, it is often too hard in North America to do this, because people are too shy about this particular possibility. Nevertheless, if the bishop or the abbot or anyone else cannot actually, physically, wash the feet of the people, there are other ways in which this service can be provided. There are other things that we can do : helping them, serving them, as our Saviour serves us.

Second, our Saviour gives us the food of eternal Life. He gives us today His Body and His Blood in order to sustain us in our following of Him. He knows that we are weak, and He knows that we need food, concrete, tangible food that we can eat and taste. He knows that we need this because we are human beings. He gives us His Body and His Blood through the vehicle of bread and wine. The Lord gives us His Body and His Blood to sustain us, to nourish us, to enable us to continue following in His footsteps no matter how weak we sometimes may be. He gives us His Body and His Blood for the healing of our souls and our bodies.

The third example that our Saviour gives us is the example of obedience to His Father. His emptying of Himself, His sacrifice of Himself, His Offering of Himself on our behalf is certainly voluntary. He, who created all things, is allowing His creatures to kill Him. We see the great agony and stress that this brings to Him. When He is suffering like this in His love for us, He is bearing in Himself all our darkness, all our fear, all our brokenness. Our Saviour is offering all this to the Father, so that as He dies and rises again from the dead, conquering death and overcoming sin, He is re-uniting us all with the Father. We are now able to become members of the Body of Christ. We are now able to re-enter direct communion with our Creator because the Saviour Himself, God Himself, has come to us. He has emptied Himself, and taken us to Himself. He has taken everything of us upon Himself, and He has brought it up to His Father, our Father in heaven.

Such is His love for us, and such should be our love for the Lord. Our Saviour did all in order to fulfill what was prophesied. He did this not only because the Prophets prophesied. Prophets can sometimes prophesy on their own will, and therefore not truly be prophets at all. However, the true Prophets prophesied in the Holy Spirit. In the Holy Spirit, they spoke the words which the Word, Himself, gave them about Himself, in advance of the events to come. Our Lord knew what had to happen in order for us to be united to Him. In love, He embraced all that was prepared for Him, in harmony with the will of the Father (see Luke 24:25-27).

Trusting our heavenly Father who wants only life and joy for us, let us likewise embrace in love all that we are given. Let us trust Him concerning everything in our lives. Following the example of our Saviour, let us now be obedient to Him, and offer Him this sacrifice of praise at the present time. May this sacrifice of praise continue to be offered to the Lord in our hearts, our souls, and our minds throughout the rest of our lives, and into the heavenly Kingdom. There, with all the cloud of witnesses, we will glorify the All-Holy Trinity : the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, now, and ever, and unto the ages of ages.