Commentary of the Day

"Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me"
by Origen (c.185-253), priest and theologian

"Jesus, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, rose from supper." That which had not been in Jesus's hands before is put into his hands by the Father: not just some things and not others, but everything. David had said: "The Lord says to my lord: Sit at my right hand while I make your enemies your footstool" (Ps 109[110]:1). The enemies of Jesus shared out, as it were, that 'all' which he knew his Father was giving him. (…) On account of those who were far away from God, he was separated from God who, by nature, did not wish to leave the Father. He left God so that all who have been separated from God should return to God with him, in his hands, according to his eternal design. (…) So what was Jesus doing in washing the feet of his disciples? By washing them and wiping them with the towel around his waist wasn't Jesus making their feet beautiful at the moment when they were going to have to proclaim the good news? It was then, in my opinion, that the prophetic word was fulfilled: "How beautiful are the feet of those who proclaim good news!" (Is 52:7; Rm 10:15). But if, by washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus makes them beautiful, how can we express the genuine beauty in those whom he immerses fully "in the Holy Spirit and in fire" (Mt 3:11)? The feet of the apostles were made beautiful so that (…) they might set out along the holy road and walk in him who said: "I am the Way" (Jn 14:6). For whoever has had his feet washed by Jesus, and he alone, follows that living way that leads to the Father. That way has no room for dirty feet! (…) In order to follow this living, spiritual way (Heb 10:20) (…) they had to have their feet washed by Jesus who set aside his garments (…) so as to take upon his own body the dirtiness of their feet with the towel which was his only garment, for "he bears our infirmities" (Is 53:4).

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From: Commentary on St John's gospel, paras. 32, 25-35.77-83; cf. SC 385