Christ before the institution of the Eucharist washes the feet of His disciples. 17 Foretells that He is soon to be betrayed by Judas, and points him out to John by means of a morsel of bread. 34 He gives the new commandment of love, and foretells to Peter his (Peter’s) treble denial of Him.
OW before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head.
10 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.
Douay Rheims Version
Christ washes his disciples' feet. The treason of Judas. The new commandment of love.
EFORE the festival day of the pasch, Jesus knowing that his hour was come, that he should pass out of this world to the Father: having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end.
Ver. 1.—Before the Feast of the Passover. About the thirteenth day of the first month; the Passover, say the Greeks, having to be celebrated by the Law of the Jews on the fourteenth day. For they make out from these very words of John that Christ, on account of the approach of His Passion, anticipated the Pasch, celebrating it on the thirteenth day, and therefore ate the lamb with leavened and not with unleavened bread. For the use of unleavened bread began with the Passover on the fourteenth day. For this reason they say that Christ consecrated the Eucharist with leavened bread, and they therefore consecrate and celebrate in leavened and not unleavened bread. But this is opposed to the other Evangelists, who assert that Christ celebrated the Pasch and instituted the Eucharist on the first day of unleavened bread—on which day the Jews used to sacrifice the Paschal Lamb—the fourteenth day of the month, for thus the Law prescribes in Exodus xii. As for what John says, that Christ did it on the day before the feast of the Passover, this must be understood to mean His having done it on the fourteenth day, in the evening preceding the feast,—preceding the first day of unleavened bread, which was the fifteenth day, the morning of the Friday on which Christ was crucified. And in favour of this view, it is to be observed that, though the sacrifice of the lamb took place on the fourteenth day, in the evening, still the feast of the first day of unleavened bread properly began on the morning of the fifteenth. It is in this sense that John says Christ celebrated the Pasch on the day before the Feast of the Pasch, because He celebrated it in the evening of the fourteenth day. But the other three Evangelists, because they couple the evening of the fourteenth day with the morning of the fifteenth, as being one and the same feast (for feasts were begun by the Hebrews on the evening of the day before, and lasted until the evening of the succeeding day, as is still the practice in the Vespers of the Ecclesiastical Office), for this reason say that Christ celebrated the Passover and the Eucharist on the first day of unleavened bread, the fourteenth day of the month, in the evening, this being the beginning of the festival, and belonging to both the fourteenth and fifteenth days. So that if we take it as being the end of the fourteenth day, it must be considered as being before the first day of unleavened bread. But if we take it in the beginning of the feast to be held on the next day, then in this sense it belonged to, and was called, the fifteenth day or the first day of unleavened bread, as the other three Evangelists call it.
Jesus, knowing that the hour was come for Him (by His Cross and death) to pass from this world to the Father. This is an allusion to the name Passover,—a passing, or rather a leaping over. Jesus, knowing that it was now the Feast of the Passover, when the Hebrews of old, led by Moses, went out of Egypt and passed into the promised land by the immolation of the lamb (for it was by the blood of this lamb that they were delivered from the angel when he smote the Egyptians), the type of His Immolation, which was about to be accomplished on the Cross, and by which He was about to pass from this world into heaven and return to His Father on the day of His Ascension, that so He might cause us also to pass thither, and leap after death from the world into heaven,—knowing this, He prepared Himself for this day by heroic acts of the supremest humility—inasmuch as He washed the feet of His disciples—and of the sublimest love—inasmuch as He instituted the Eucharist. By these acts He prepared for death and martyrdom that He might teach us to do likewise, to multiply and intensify towards the end of our lives our virtuous actions, especially our acts of humility and charity. And this, first, because it becomes us to grow and advance in virtue daily, with the advance of our lives, to pass the latest day and hour of life in the holiest manner, and to be already beginning the heavenly life, thought, and habits to which we aspire. Secondly, because it is right that when we go out of this world we should leave our brethren, our associates, our friends, and all men a great example of virtue, for the things which we do when going away from them, or dying, make a more lasting impression on the minds of our friends. Thirdly, because it is fitting that we should be prepared in this manner for a generous death, in some cases for martyrdom, and, as it were, earn it from God. Thus S. Laurence, two days before his martyrdom, prepared himself for it by washing the feet of the poor and distributing to them the treasures of the Church, and this was for him the occasion—even the meritorious cause—of so glorious a martyrdom. So too SS. Cyriacus, Largus, Smaragdus, and Sisinnius the Deacons, ministering to the ten thousand Christian soldiers condemned by Diocietian to labour in the construction of his baths, carrying on their shoulders the burdens of old men, and distributing the alms supplied to them by S. Marcellus the Pope and Thraso, obtained as their reward the glorious laurels of martyrdom, as appears from the record of their acts in Surius.
Moreover, faithful and pious souls pass from this world in one way—those without faith in another. For, as S. Augustine says (Tract 55), “It is one thing to pass from the world, another to pass with it; one thing to pass to a Father, another thing to a foe. For the Egyptians too passed over . . . yet did they not pass through the sea to the kingdom, but to destruction in the sea.”
Having loved His own (the faithful ones of His household, the Apostles whose feet He soon after washed) who were in the world. Cyril thinks that this is added for the sake of distinguishing them from the angels who are in heaven; but S. Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Euthymius consider it as marking the distinction of the patriarchs and prophets who were not now in the world but in Limbo, as having passed away from this life. The connection is more appropriate with the preceding “for Him to bass from this world.” Being about to leave the Apostles, His most dear children, in the world, and in its troubles, perils, and persecutions, so numerous and so great, Jesus, taking pity on them, gave them, before He went, the highest token of His love towards them, and furnished them, in the Eucharist, with the supreme remedy for all the tribulations of the world, that in it He might always be present to them to fortify and strengthen them against all that might be opposed to their salvation
He loved them to the end. To the end of life, unto death, say S. Cyril, S. Augustine, and Rupert; or, as S. Chrysostom (Hom. 69) explains it, always. Whence Nonnus says, “Having loved His own from the beginning, so also He loved them to the end.”
Secondly, to the end of His love—He loved them with a supreme love, the Greek τέλος, end, being put for τελείωσις, perfection, as S. Chrysostom, Leontius, and Theophylact explain. Euthymius too interprets “to the end” as vehemently, for τέλος; is the end, the last, the sum of a thing, its highest perfection, its issue, completion, and crowning point. Christ had hitherto loved His disciples exceedingly, but now, being about to pass away to the Father, He manifested to them His most perfect love by washing their feet, by instituting the Eucharist, by exhorting them with the most ardent charity, and by rousing them to the love of God, to constancy, and to all virtue.
Of these two meanings the former is the plainer and simpler, and, therefore, that which Christ first intended; the latter, however, is, the more full of meaning, and therefore Christ had it in view at the same time. So says Toletus. For He (Christ) gives it to be understood that His love to His disciples was so great that, though He knew a fearful and instant death to be awaiting Him, yet, as though forgetful of this, He poured forth His whole being in the love and service of His disciples. Wherefore S. Thomas (0pusc. 57) says, “Wherefore, that the vastness of this charity might be the more deeply impressed upon the hearts of the faithful in the Last Supper, when, after celebrating the Pasch with His disciples, He was about to pass from this world to the Father, He instituted this sacrament as an everlasting memorial of His Passion, the fulfilment of ancient types, the greatest of the miracles wrought by Him, and the peculiar solace for their grief at His absence.”
S. Augustine and Bede understand Christ by the end, symbolically. For Christ is “the end of the Law” (Rom. x. 4); He loved His own, therefore, to the end, that is, on account of Himself, or by communicating to them His own glory. The Interlinear says that He loved His own unto the end, that is, by dying for them, that they by His love might pass from the world.
And supper being over, when Satan had put it into the heart of Judas, the son of Simon the Iscariot, to betray Him. After the legal supper and the common supper too, before the Sacred Supper—the institution of the Eucharist—Christ washed the feet of His disciples; for by this washing He wished to show with how great purity and humility we ought to approach the Eucharist. Observe that Christ partook of a triple supper with His disciples, the ceremonial, the ordinary supper, and the Supper of the Eucharist. In families of ample means, the lamb being insufficient to satisfy the hunger of so many persons, there usually followed the ordinary supper, at which they ate other kinds of meat. And so Christ washed the feet of the Apostles after the two former suppers and before the third. And hence it is clear this washing of feet was not merely the ordinary usage of the Jews according to which they were accustomed to wash the feet of their guests, but a sacramental ablution, by which Christ was preparing His disciples for the reception of the Eucharist, converting the ordinary usage into a sacred ceremony. So that they are in error who gather from this passage that Christ washed the feet of His disciples after the Eucharistic Supper and before the lengthy discourse which He then made them, and which is subjoined by John. Of this number is S. Cyprian, or whoever is the author of the “Treatise on the Washing of Feet.” “The Lord,” he says, “had now distributed to the Apostles the Sacrament of His Body; Judas had now gone out; when, rising from the table, He girt Himself with a towel, and at the knees of Peter the Lord Himself, on bended knee, about to wash the feet of His servant, discharged towards him an office of consummate humility.”
When the devil. The betrayal of Christ by Judas being now at hand—the result of a diabolical prompting—and His murder by the Jews, He wished first to leave us in the Eucharist a perpetual memorial of Himself, by means of which He would also recall to our minds His Passion and Death endured for us, and so incite us to a reciprocal love of Him. Again, John mentions the treachery of Judas in order to increase our appreciation of Christ’s humility, patience, and loving-kindness. For, knowing that He had been sold for money, and was soon to be betrayed by Judas, He nevertheless was so persistent in the love of His Disciples that He wished to wash their feet, even the feet of Judas. So say S. Cyril, S. Chrysostom, S. Augustine, Theophylact, Euthymius, and Rupert. The Evangelist tells us that the devil put this treachery into the heart of Judas; by which he wishes to imply that its atrocity was such that it could only have been the work of the devil.
Ver. 3.—Knowing that the Father gave all things into His hands, and that He came forth from God and went to God. That is, first, though Christ knew Himself to be such, and so great as to have all things in His power, and indeed to be Very God of Very God, and that, as He had come forth from, so he was about to return to, and sit down at the right hand of God, yet He humbled Himself so far as to kneel down and wash the feet of His disciples and of Judas His betrayer. So Cyril, Augustine, Bede, and S. Gregory (Morals, Book iii., chap. 12). Maldonatus adds that Christ knew that all things were given Him by the Father, that is, that it was now permitted Him by the Father’s ordinance to complete all the things that were given Him to do;—that hitherto He had not been permitted to die, because the time appointed by the Father had not yet come, but that now that time had come when it was permitted Him to do all that belonged to the redemption of man.
Again, John here assigns three very fitting and efficacious motives which impelled Christ to wash the feet of His disciples. The first is, that “the Father gave all things into His hands;” that is, because the Father intrusted to Him the salvation of mankind, and committed their whole care to Him; for this trust incited Him to leave to mankind before His departure these stupendous examples of humility and charity. As for what is meant by the Father’s making over all things to Christ, see the remarks on Matt. xi. 27.
The second motive was that “He came forth from God.” It was fitting that Christ the Son should by this washing of feet manifest His supreme love and reverence towards God the Father. For by nothing is God more honoured and gratified than by our humility; so that humility is the highest praise of God.
And the third was that “He went to God.” Knowing that His death was near at hand, and wishing the last act of His life to be one of the most sublime virtue, He would now do an act of the greatest charity and humility, and leave it as a legacy to posterity. Such is the view of Toletus.
He rises from supper and lays aside His garments, and taking a towel girded Himself. John enumerates all the actions, conditions, and circumstances of the washing of feet to show us how attentive, exact, and observant of decorum Christ was in this, as in all else that He did, that we may learn to do likewise even in the smallest matters, according to the words of Ecclus. xxxiii. 23, “In all thy works [be thou careful to] excel.”
Lays aside His garments—the outer tunic, keeping on the inner lest His body should be exposed; or rather the robe which those about to partake of supper usually put on over their ordinary dress. The Greek has ίμάτια, the outermost garments or garment, such as the toga or pallium. By the figure of enallage the plural number is here put for the singular.
Girt Himself—that He might not soil His garments, that He might be the more unimpeded in the work of washing, that He might wipe their feet when He had washed them, and also that He might assume for this servile office the servile garb which befitted it, and in this way abase Himself completely. “What wonder,” says S. Augustine, “if He who, when He was in the form of God, did make Himself void, arose from supper and laid aside His garments?” For humility is the distinctive virtue of Christ and Christians. S. Basil (Constit., chap. xvi.) says that humility guards the treasure-house of the virtues. Humility, says S. Macarius (Homil. xv.), is the badge of Christianity, which he who lacks is a vessel of the Evil One; humility is the ballast of the virtues. This is what S. Augustine says in his first Discourse on Psalm xxiii. “As David laid Goliath low, it is Christ who hath slain the devil. And what is the Christ who hath slain the devil? Humility hath slain pride. When therefore, my brethren, I mention Christ, humility is chiefly commanded to us. For by humility He hath made a way for us, inasmuch as by pride we had receded from God. Except by humility we could not have returned to Him, and we had none to set before us as an example to imitate, for all mortals had become puffed up with human pride. And if there existed any man humble in spirit, as were the prophets and patriarchs, the human race disdained to imitate humble persons. Then let not man disdain to imitate a humble man; God hath become humble that so the pride of the human race might at least not disdain to follow the footsteps of God.”
Ver. 5.—Then He puts water into a bason and begins to wash the feet of his disciples, and wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. S. Cyprian, Theophylact, and Euthymius note that Christ did all these things by Himself, without the aid or help of any one, to teach us how attentively and carefully we ought to serve others. Euthymius adds that Christ Himself asked the master of the house for the basin, and drew and brought the water. “What wonder,” says S. Augustine (Tract 55), “if He who poured forth His blood on the earth to wash away the uncleanness of sin poured water into a bason to wash the feet of His disciples? What wonder if He who made firm with the flesh He had taken upon Him the footsteps of His Evangelists, wiped with the towel He was girded with the feet that He had washed?”
Symbolically, S. Ambrose (Book i., “On the Holy Spirit”) says, “This water was the heavenly dew. This it was that was prophesied, that with that heavenly dew the Lord Jesus should wash the feet of His disciples.” And later on, “Come, therefore, 0 Lord Jesus! put off the garments that Thou hast for my sake put upon Thee; be Thou naked, that Thou mayest clothe us with Thy mercy. Gird Thyself for our sakes with linen, that Thou mayest gird us with the immortality of Thy (muneris immortalitate) free gift. Pour water in the bason, and wash not our feet only but our head also; and not only those of the body, but I would also put off from the footsoles of the mind all the uncleanness of my frailty, that I too may say, ‘I have put off my garment in the night, how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet, how shall I soil them?’” (Cant. v.)
Ver. 6.—He comes therefore to Simon Peter: so as to begin here as elsewhere with Peter, the Head and Primate of the Apostles. For if He had gone first to the other Apostles, they would assuredly have protested as much as Peter against so great and unusual an act of condescension on the part of their Lord; but when they saw Peter acquiesce after having been rebuked by Christ, they too acquiesced, and allowed their feet to be washed by Him. So S. Augustine, Bede, Rupert, Maldonatus, and others.
Christ here indicates figuratively that visitation and reformation must be begun with the head and those who bear rule, for that so it will be easy to reform the faithful who are subject to them. However, Origen and Leontius think that Peter was the last in this washing of feet, and with Chrysostom, Theophylact, and Euthymius, hold that Christ first of all washed the feet of Judas that He might soften his heart and recall him from his wicked treason, and might give us an example of the love of our enemies, that we may repay their injuries with kindness, and do them the more good the more spiteful we feel them to be towards us.
And Peter says to Him, Lord, dost Thou wash my feet? That is, dost Thou prepare to do so? The action is represented as just beginning, or rather intended, for Christ had not yet begun to wash his feet. Peter said this in stupefied amazement at the humility of Christ, and out of the depth of his reverence for Him, says Cyril; and hence every one of the words is emphatic. Thou who art the King of kings and Lord of lords, my feet, who am a low fisherman, and but a worm of this earth, feet that are muddy and filthy, dost Thou wash them with Thine own blessed hands? “These things,” says S. Augustine, “must be thought upon rather than spoken of, lest the tongue fail to express what the mind has more or less worthily comprehended by these words.”
Ver. 7.—Jesus answered and said to him, What I do thou knowest not now, but hereafter thou shalt know. Christ means that in this washing of feet, mysteries are hidden which as yet Peter knew not. “Peter,” says S. Ambrose (in his work, De iis qui initiantur, ch. 6), “saw not the hidden meaning, and therefore rejected the service, thinking that the humility of the servant would be compromised should he suffer his Lord to do him this office.” “Hereafter thou shalt know,” that is, first, “when I shall tell you (ver. 14) that I do this to give to thee, to the apostles, and to the rest of the faithful an example of the greatest humility and most sublime charity;” so S. Cyril interprets. Secondly, because by this ablution penance is signified, and this sacrament must precede that of the Eucharist, as thou, 0 Peter, shalt understand after the Holy Spirit has been sent, for “He shall teach you all things.” So S. Cyprian, (Tract. de Cœnâ Dom.), S. Pacianus (Ep. 1, contra Novat.), S. Gregory (bk. ix. Ep. 39), and SS. Augustine and Bernard imply the same. It was as a type of this that the Jewish priests used, when entering the temple to sacrifice, to wash their hands and feet in the brazen layer that was set for this purpose in front of the Holy of Holies; and this they did for the sake of bodily cleanliness, that by it they might be admonished of spiritual purity.
On this point S. Ambrose is singular in his view; for in his work “On the Sacraments” (bk. iii. ch. 1, and in De iis qui initiantur, ch. 6) he holds that this bodily washing of feet is necessary for all the faithful before baptism, that by it they may be prepared for the Holy Eucharist just as Christ prepared the apostles. Hence he maintains that the washing of feet is a kind of sacrament or sacred rite here sanctioned by Christ, by which we are to be strengthened against the devil’s endeavours to trip us up. And for this reason he reckons the washing of feet amongst the rites or ceremonies of baptism, so that it came into use as such at Milan. S. Bernard, too, in his sermon “On the Lord’s Supper,” calls the washing of feet a sacrament, and implies that it has power for the remission of venial sins; “for,” he says, “that we may not be in doubt about the remission of our daily sins, we have the sacrament of it—the washing of feet.” By “sacrament,” however, S. Bernard here understands symbol or figure, as he himself explains a little farther on.
Symbolically, Origen and S. Jerome (in his epistle to Damasus on the first vision of Isaiah) think that Christ washed His apostles’ feet to prepare them for the preaching of the gospel, according to the words, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, of them that bring good tidings1” (Isa. 1ii. 7.) Secondly, S. Ambrose thinks that Christ in baptism washes away actual sin by washing the head, but that here, in washing their feet, He washed away the remains of original sin, the movements of concupiscence, for that by this washing He strengthened their feet—that is, their affections—to make generous resistance to their lower appetites.
Thirdly, S. Augustine and S. Bernard (l.c.) say that by the feet with which we tread the earth are signified the loves, the stains, and the defects which, while we are amid the things of earth, adhere to our affections, as dust or mud to our feet.
S. Ambrose (De Initiandis, ch. 6) gives the mystical reason for the washing of feet as follows:—“Peter was clean, but He must wash his foot, for he had by inheritance the sin of the first man when the serpent tripped him up and led him astray; and therefore is his foot washed, that these hereditary sins may he taken away.” He alludes here to the word spoken by God to the serpent, “Thou shalt ensnare his heel” (Gen. iii. 15). The same Saint says again (De Sacram, book iii. ch. 1), “Because Adam was tripped up by the devil and the venom was poured out over thy feet, therefore dost thou wash thy feet that in that part where the serpent ensnared thee there may be added the more abundant aid of sanctification, so that he be not able to trip thee up hereafter,” κ.τ.λ.
Another more literal reason was that those who were to be baptized used to go barefooted as a sign of humility. This going barefooted is called by S. Augustine (“On the Creed,” bk. ii ch. 1) “the humility of the feet.” And so they used to wash off the stains contracted by their bare feet. This custom spread from the Church of Milan to other churches (see S. Augustine, Epp. 118, 119). Palladius, too, in his Lauriaca, ch. 73, tells how Serapion the Sindonite converted two comic actors, washed their feet and then baptized them; but afterwards, as a great many persons came to think that this washing of feet was sufficient without baptism, it was forbidden by the Council of Eliberis, ch. 48. The Church of Milan, however, continued the usage. Guisseppe Visconti treats at length of this subject in his De Ritibus Baptism (bk. iii. ch. 17, et seq. ).
Ver. 8.—“Peter says to Him, Thou shalt never wash my feet.” Origin accuses Peter of headstrong audacity and disobedience, but S. Augustine (Tract. 56) rightly excuses him, inasmuch as this speech of his showed profound faith, reverence, fear, humility, and love. “I,” (the words are St. Cyprian’s in his treatise on the washing of the feet), “I am ready to die with Thee, if needs be, for this I ought to do, this fate I embrace. For Thee I will gladly present my neck to the executioner; but my God and my Lord prostrate at my feet, this I suffer not, this I dare not endure.”
Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me. First, S. Augustine takes this mystically. Unless I wash away thy venial sins by penance I will not give thee the Eucharist, which I am about to institute, neither shalt thou enter heaven, for nothing that is defiled can enter there. So, too, St. Cyprian in his treatise on the washing of feet. Secondly, according to SS. Chrysostom and Cyril: Unless thou receive the lesson of humility which I give thee in this washing of feet, thou shalt have no part with Me, for only the humble attain to the grace and glory of God.
Thirdly, according to the letter: If thou, 0 Peter, persistest in thy disobedience, thou shalt not communicate with Me in the Eucharistic table,—I will give thee no part of the bread that is about to be consecrated into My body,—I will not have thee for My familiar friend and the companion of My sacred table. Christ threatens Peter with the loss of His intimate friendship and of the Eucharist, not the loss of His grace and glory; for though Peter was loth to obey, yet this arose from his profound humility and reverence, and was, therefore, worthy of pardon. Toletus says: He threatened not to give Peter the Eucharist by which Christ was to abide in him and he in Christ; for it was chiefly for this that He washed their feet, so that they might be clean and fitly prepared to receive Him when He should give Himself to them and be really united to them. Peter did not distinctly understand what Christ said at the time, but only understood that he was to be cut off from Christ and have nothing in common with Him unless he underwent this washing; afterwards, however, he comprehended the mystery. There is a similar expression in 3 Kings xii. 16, where the people, exasperated by the cruelty of Roboam, say, “What part have we in David? or what inheritance in the son of Jesse?”
S. Basil, in his “Discourse on Sin,” says, “For this reason threats of this kind were held out by Christ against Peter, that unless he had rectified his will by promptitude and quickening of obedience, not those wonderful blessings which had come to him from God, not his gifts, not the promises made to him, not even that declaration of such and so great a yearning towards the Only-Begotten Son of God the Father, would have served him to expiate his actual disobedience.” Hence S. Basil draws from this two remarkable rules of conduct:—“He that opposes himself to the commands of God, even though he do so with a pious and friendly intention, such an one is nevertheless for this cause estranged from the Lord.” And the second is:—“Whatever is said by the Lord, that ought we to receive with all the fulness of our heart.” (Reg. xii. ch. 2.)
Simon Peter says to Him, Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head. Struck by the threat of Christ as by a thunderbolt, Peter obeys, and offers more than Christ had asked. Hence S. Basil in his Shorter Rules, 60th Answer, gives a useful rule:—“Whatever we have before resolved upon beside that which is commanded by the Lord must be rescinded. This is plainly shown in the case of the Apostle Peter, who had first resolved ‘Thou shalt never wash my feet,’ but when he heard the Lord say positively, “Unless I wash thee, thou shalt have no part with Me,’ straightway changed his mind and said, ‘Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands.’”
Again, in the 233rd Answer, St. Basil teaches us from this text that obedience is to be preferred to all the other virtues. “Peter,” he says, “although the Lord had borne him witness of such and so great meritorious acts, and had called him and pronounced him blessed in so singular a manner, yet, having in one point only seemed to turn aside from obedience, and that too not from negligence or pride, but from reverence and respect to his Lord,—for this and this only is it said to him, ‘Unless I wash thy feet, thou shalt have no part with Me.’”
Ver. 10.—Jesus says to him, He that has been washed needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean throughout. Observe that Christ here alludes to those who wash themselves in the baths and go out washed all over, but, walking barefoot on the ground soil their feet and therefore afterwards wash them only. Again, observe that Christ, as His wont is, here rises from the corporal to the spiritual washing thus—He that has been spiritually washed by baptism, as I, 0 apostles, have washed you, or he who has been washed by Contrition and penance, such an one is washed all over in soul, but needs only to wash his feet, that is, purge frequently by contrition, bodily austerities, and the like virtues, the inclinations of the soul which is stained by contact with the things of earth, and contact from their slight impurities, and this is especially needful before receiving the Holy Eucharist.
SS. Augustine, Bede, Rupert, and S. Bernard in his Sermon on the Lord’s Supper, interpret more or less to this effect.
So Christ by this washing of feet purged away the sins of Peter and the apostles, especially their venial sins; for by means of this act of self-abasement He pricked their consciences and reminded them of that inward purification that must be made in the soul by contrition by means of which venial sins are expiated.
Lastly, S. Augustine in his 108th Letter to Seleucianus, gathers with some probability from the words “he that has been washed,” that Peter and the apostles had been baptized before the Eucharist; both because no one is qualified to receive the Eucharist without having been baptized, and also because Christ baptized them before His death, for after His death He baptized no one, and it is clear that they must all have been baptized either by Christ Himself or by others in His behalf. The expression appears to be rightly applicable to the washing which takes place in baptism.
And ye are clean, but not all. Christ secretly strives to provoke Judas to think better of his plot of wicked treason; still He would not mention him by name, lest He should bring him into bad odour, and the apostles should rise up against him as a traitor, and ill-use him.
Ver. 11.—For He knew who it was that should betray Him; wherefore He said, Ye are not all clean. From this S. Augustine gathers that Judas was then present, and had been washed by Christ, and that he received the Blessed Sacrament—(Bk ii. contra Petil. Ch. 22.). S. Cyprian, however, in his treatise on the Washing of Feet, says that Judas was not present at the washing, nor, consequently, at the Eucharist.
Ver. 13.—Ye call me ‘Master’ and ‘Lord,’ and ye speak rightly, for so I am. Christ was Master and Lord of all men and of the whole world, not only as God but as man, and not only taught externally by speaking, as masters commonly do, but illuminated minds interiorly, and impelled the will whithersoever He would. See Matt. xxii. 10.
Ver. 15.—I have given you an example, that as I have done so ye may do also—not unto Me, seeing that I am even now going to death, but to others, your neighbours, when necessity or kindness shall require. For, as St. Gregory says in his preface to his books of Dialogues, “Examples stir us up to the love of our heavenly country more than preaching.” It was thus that Jesus began first to do and then to teach (Acts i. 1), and taught more by deed than by word. Hence S. Basil teaches that he who bears rule must first do those things which he teaches his subjects to do, and that he ought to excel his subjects in humility as he does in dignity. Christ foresaw that the apostles would soon be wrangling in their pride as to who should be the greater, so He put before them this example of humility to break down and suppress their ambition; and in the event He did if not crush at least break it.
Ver. 16.—Verily, verily I say to you, The slave is not greater than his Lord, nor the messenger than He that sent him. Foreseeing the contention about the chief place which would soon follow, Christ insists on the humility which He is inculcating on His apostles.
Ver. 17.—If Ye know these things, blessed shall ye be if ye do them. If you know these things—and who is ignorant that a master is greater than his slave?—you shall be blessed if, as you know them, you also act up to your knowledge in practice. Blessed in hope, though not yet in actuality;—blessed ye shall be after death if until then ye continue to do these things, and persevere in following Me, as I know that ye all will persevere excepting only Judas. And so, to indicate this exception, He adds,
Ver. 18.—I speak not of you all, because I know that Judas will not do these things which I have said. I know whom I have chosen. S. Augustine (Tract. 59) explains this with reference to the eternal predestination and election to glory by God:—I speak not of all, but of those only whom I have chosen to glory, and Judas I have not chosen. This, however, seems rather harsh, both because the whole blame must be laid upon Judas and not upon Christ, and His election from which He excluded Judas, and in the next verse Christ lays the blame on Judas; and then again because Christ, when He speaks of the eternal election and predestination of God, is not wont to attribute it to Himself but to the Father, for it is a primary function of Providence, which is the attribute of the Father. Christ therefore is here speaking of His temporal election, by which He, as man, chose twelve apostles (see Luke vi.), and Judas himself among the number. This is the view of Toletus and Maldonatus.
I know and have known whom and what manner of men I have elected to be apostles, who will be worthy, and who will not, who will persevere, and therefore be blessed, and who will not. I know those who will do these things which I have said, and who will not, as I know and have known, that Judas being chosen by Me, would not do these things, but would be My betrayer. Wherefore I did not choose him in ignorance, nay rather I foreknew and foresaw that he would betray Me, yet did I choose him to use his malice for the common good, that through him My Passion might be fulfilled, and through it the salvation and redemption of men. Wherefore He adds,—But that the Scripture may be fulfilled; He that eateth bread with Me shall lift up his heel against Me. I knew that Judas would be My betrayer, yet I elected him an Apostle, that through him the Scripture which foretold My Passion and its manner, might be fulfilled, for it foretold that it should be begun by the treachery of My familiar friend, of one of Mine own household, of Judas who has abused My friendship and familiarity in order to betray Me. And I have been willing to allow this, that from his wickedness I may elicit an infinite good—the salvation, namely, of the world—just as I permitted the fall of Lucifer and of Adam, to draw from thence the Incarnation of Christ.
Lift up his heel. He is quoting Ps. xl. 9, where the Septuagint translate “made great upon Me his tripping up,” and S. Jerome, “lifted up against me the sole of his foot,” that is, tried to deceive, trip up, betray, and bring Me to ruin; nay, he did indeed trip Me up by his deceit, caused Me to fall into the hands of the Jews, and brought Me to My Cross and death. David is speaking literally of Achitophel, who betrayed him to his son Absalom, but mystically of Judas, the betrayer of Christ, of whom Achitophel was a type as David was of Christ.
Ver. 19.—I say to you at once, before it come to pass, that when it come to pass ye may believe that I am. Now, in the Greek, απ άζτι, which may be translated from now or from this time, as in the Syriac Version, or, as here, straightway, forthwith, indicating the treachery of Judas to be near at hand. A few hours hence Judas shall betray Me, and therefore I foretell it to you, that when you see Me betrayed, seized, and killed, you may not be disturbed, but may believe—persevere in My Faith, that I am—the Messiah, the Son of God, freely offering Myself to death for the redemption of mankind. I foretell all these things to you that you may believe that I know them all beforehand and could withdraw Myself from danger, but that I will not, but wish to suffer for the salvation of the world. Then, too, shall you see that I said truly, “Ye are not all clean”—that Judas is unclean and wicked, and therefore to be reprobated and condemned, when you see him for the enormity of his crime strangle himself with a cord. Let, therefore, this prediction of Mine, coupled with the occurrence of the thing predicted, make you firm and strong in My faith when you are on the point of tottering. So Cyril.
Ver. 20.—Verily, verily I say to you, that He that receives him whom I have sent, receives Me; and he that receives Me receives Him that sent Me. It is not clear how these words are connected with those which precede. First Chrysostom (Hom. 21), and Theophylact after him, refer them to the passion and cross of Christ, as though He were encouraging the apostles to imitate it. In other words: Fear not the persecutions, death, and crosses which you shall suffer in preaching My faith, for in this you will be following Me,—suffering as My ambassadors, sent by Me and therefore by God the Father. Wherefore this suffering shall not bring ignominy on you, but glory. There is, however, no reference here to the sufferings of the apostles, but to their reception by the world.
Then again Cyril (bk. ix. ch. 12) thinks that Christ is showing the heinousness of Judas’ treachery by means of an argument from its contrary, thus—Just as he who receives and honours one sent by Me receives and honours Me, so, too, he who rejects him that I send offers a grievous insult not only to Me, but also to God who sent Me. Here, however, we must supply a great many things which Christ did not say.
Gaetano, Jansenius, and Ribera, with more probability, hold that Christ wished, at the close of His discourse on the washing of feet, to make some additional remarks by way of exhorting all the faithful to receive and treat with kindness the apostles sent to them, just as He had previously exhorted the apostles to be kind to the faithful. In this way He consoles the apostles too, whom He had bidden labour in offices of charity for the good of all. (Chrysostom, Homily 71.)
Lastly, Toletus thinks that this is connected with the example given in the washing of feet by Christ, in order that the apostles and the faithful may not excuse themselves from following it on the score that such an act lowers a man. For Christ Himself practised it, and in so doing rendered it honourable and noble. The meaning then is: He who entertains guests who are of the faith, especially apostles, and washes their feet, as it were receives Me who sent them, but he that receives Me receives also the Father who sent Me.
Christ, then, here teaches that offices of humility, such as the washing of feet, must be undertaken even by apostles and prelates, and not refused by them on the score of the dignity of their station, for by these works they shall become honourable as true imitators of Christ and His genuinely accredited agents. It was for this that St. Francis Xavier when, on his voyage to India, he used to make the beds of the sick people, cook their food, and give them their medicine, hearing the complaint made that such degrading occupations were not becoming to an Apostolic Legate as he was, answered that they were becoming to a disciple and -apostle of Christ, since Christ Himself underwent, and, as it were, ennobled them. For in the school of Christ humility alone ennobles and exalts, because it makes us like Christ our God and Lord. So says Tursellinus in his life of this Saint.
S. Charles Borromeo would, on an occasion of public supplication, go with his feet bare, a halter tied round his neck, carrying a cross. He used to discharge servile functions towards the poor, minister to those who were stricken with the plague, and fulfil every menial office; yet did he not by so doing derogate from his dignity as an Archbishop and a Cardinal, but rather enhanced it, and earned the name of “the Holy Cardinal.” For as a carbuncle set in a gold ring increases its beauty, so does humility shed a lustre upon the insignia of high station.
Ver. 21.—When He had said these things, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and testified (openly and plainly), saying, Verily, I say unto you, that one of you will betray Me. In the Syriac, “These things said Jeschua, and groaned in spirit, and testified and said, Amin, amin, I say to you,” κ.τ.λ. In the Arabic Version “was moved in spirit.” This emotion, then, was an immense grief and indignation at the crime of Judas. Christ was pained in the innermost feelings of His soul, and groaned in spirit for the enormity of this crime as well as for the perdition of Judas. And this sorrow he did not suffer involuntarily, but admitted it of His free will, and took it upon Him at this point of His own accord, as He did at the death of Lazarus. See commentary on ch. xi. ver. 33.
The question arises here, Did this prediction of Christ take place before or after the institution of the Eucharist? John omits all mention of that event, it having been narrated fully by the other Evangelists. Matthew and Mark put the prediction before the institution of the Eucharist in order of time, but Luke puts it after.
There are three probable opinions on this point. The first is that of Jansenius and Francis Lucas, who think that Christ predicted the treason of Judas after the Eucharist, as Luke has it, and that Matthew and Mark, in making it come before, anticipate intentionally. The reason for this view is that if Christ had predicted the treason of Judas before the institution of the Eucharist, He would have disturbed the minds of the apostles, moved them to anger, and rendered their dispositions for its reception less collected than would have been fitting. But this is not conclusive. For Christ before the Eucharist foretold His passion and death, and this disturbed the apostles far more: and soon after the Eucharist—as these interpreters themselves admit—He foretold the treason of Judas, and this disturbed them then, so that they did not duly dispose themselves for that recollection which is proper after Communion. Then again this prediction would, before the Eucharist, have had the force of deterring Judas from his crime, as well as producing compunction in the hearts of the apostles and making them all careful to examine each one his own conscience, lest Christ should there find anything to bring to light and complain of, as He did the crime of Judas.
The second opinion is that of Baronius (Anno Dni. 34, ch. 58). He thinks that Christ made this prediction before the institution of the Eucharist, as Matthew and Mark have it. Baronius, then, is of opinion that the events took place in the order given by John, namely, that after the washing of the feet, Jesus spoke of His betrayal, that it was then that He gave John the sign of the morsel dipped in the dish, but that, as for Judas having gone out immediately after he had taken the morsel, we are not to take the phrase as meaning without any delay in point of time, but that, driven on by a kind of madness, he did not wait for the lengthy discourse which our Lord made after the Supper. For S. Luke clearly bears witness that Judas stayed with the others until the end of the Communion; and after this, according to the Jewish ceremonial, it would seem that nothing was left on the table in which the morsel of bread could have been dipped, so, too, it seems impossible to say that this morsel of bread was the Eucharist. But then Judas, after taking the morsel, did go out immediately, nay, that very moment according to the Syriac. He did not, then, wait for the lengthy Communion of the apostles, if that took place after the incident of the morsel. Hence it is with greater likelihood that other upholders of this view maintain that the morsel given to Judas by Christ was itself the Eucharist; and he, driven, as it were, to madness by the devil when he had received it, unworthily, straightway went forth to carry out the crime he was meditating. Moreover, during and after the institution of the Eucharist Christ reclined at the table, and there, as Luke has it, foretold the treason of Judas. It is, therefore, altogether probable that the table had not yet been removed, but that on it there remained bread and fragments of food out of which Christ could take the bread which He dipped and gave to Judas.
The third opinion, therefore, holding a middle place between the two former, seems to be the more correct—namely, that Christ both foretold His betrayal by Judas before the Eucharist, and repeated the prediction after it; and this both because He felt the atrocity of the crime, and was, as John here says, disturbed in spirit by it, again, that He might place his own wickedness before Judas, show him that He knew of it, and deter him from carrying it out, and also to prepare and fortify the minds of the Apostles, that when they should soon after see the actual betrayal and the capture of Jesus they might not be shocked, but might persevere with constancy in His faith. In this way we best reconcile Matthew and Mark with Luke. This is the expressed view of S. Augustine (De Consensu Evang., bk. iii. ch. 1), of Euthymius, and of Toletus, who say that the order of events was as follows. The Supper of the Paschal Lamb having been finished, and the ordinary Supper begun, Christ, while they were supping, arose and washed the feet of His disciples; then, reclining once more, He said all these things which John narrates; being troubled in spirit He speaks of His betrayer, and they all ask, one by one, “Is it I?” Judas receiving the answer, “Thou hast said.”
Next He institutes the Eucharist, and this being done, and the Mystery having been celebrated, He again speaks of His betrayer, as Luke relates, ch. xxii. “Nevertheless,” He says, “behold, the hand of him that betrayeth Me is with Me at table,” &c. Then Peter asks John, “Who is it of whom He speaks?” and John asking Jesus, receives the answer, “He to whom I shall offer the bread when I have dipped it.” And after this morsel Satan entered into Judas, and he went away; and when he went away, and the Supper was quite finished, Christ made to His disciples the wonderful discourse shortly after recorded by John.
Ver. 22.—Therefore the disciples began to look at one another, doubting of whom He was speaking, and asking, too, one by one, “Lord, is it I?” For, as Chrysostom says, “Because He did not speak of His betrayer by name, He brought fear upon all, and, though conscious to themselves of nothing evil, they yet believed Christ more than their own thoughts.” And, as Origen says, “They, as being men, remembered that the feelings even of enthusiasts are liable to change.”
Ver. 23.—There was then reclining on the bosom of Jesus one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved, namely, John himself. The Apostles, desiring to know by name who was to be the traitor, Peter, more eager and fervent than the rest, hints to John, who is reclining on the bosom of Jesus, to inquire of Jesus, as John here relates, and this is the force of the “then.” John being dearer to Jesus and closer to Him, inasmuch as he was reclining on His bosom, therefore, for this reason, Peter hints to him to inquire of Jesus his beloved the name of the traitor. Moreover, John is said to have reclined on the bosom of Jesus because the ancients used not to sit at table, but reclined by twos or threes on the several couches placed before the tables, so that, leaning on the lower part of the right arm, they lay rather than sat at table; and so it came to pass that the second person coming next to the first on his left hand would seem as it were to lie upon his bosom.
Whom Jesus loved—not only with the love of human friendship, but also with the love of charity, for the sake of virginity and purity, his modesty and meekness, and the sweet and holy disposition by which he excelled all the others. So say Cyril, Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, and St. Jerome in his letter to Heliodorus. Still it does not follow from this that John was absolutely holier than all the other apostles; Peter may have been more ardent in charity than he, and therefore holier than John. For sanctity consists chiefly in the love of God, which is its measure. Moreover, that John was reclining on the bosom of Jesus was not only a mark of His love for him at the time, but also a sign of what was to be, “That he might take from thence,” says Bede, “that voice unheard through all ages which he was afterwards to send forth to the world.”
Ver. 24.—Simon Peter, therefore, gave him a sign, and said to him, Who is it of whom He speaks?—Hence it is plain that Peter not only gave a sign to John by winking and nodding, as S. Augustine would have it, but also spoke to him quietly, as John here relates. Such is the opinion of Origen, Chrysostom, and Cyril. Peter asks this not as Prince of the Apostles (though Cyril takes this view), nor as though fearing, for himself lest he should be the traitor, as Chrysostom thinks, but out of his zeal, that he might avert so enormous a crime and prevent the betrayal of Christ, just as in the garden he wished to prevent His capture by cutting of the right ear of Malchus.
Verses 25, 26.—So when he had reclined upon the breast of Jesus, κ.τ.λ. John seems to have moved towards Peter, who was making signs to him, and so to have moved away a little from the bosom of Jesus in order to hear what Peter had to say; and having heard, he seems to have reoccupied his former position to ask of Jesus what Peter had suggested to him.
The bread I have dipped.—Observe that Judas was present at the celebration of the Passover, and also of the Eucharist; and received the latter together with the other Apostles, as SS. Augustine, Chrysostom, Cyril, and others show. Indeed some have thought that this bread which He had dipped was the Eucharist, but erroneously; for Christ did not consecrate bread which He had dipped, but dry bread, and likewise pure wine and unmixed (with bread). Christ, after the Holy Communion, took from the table a morsel of the bread that remained, dipped it into some little dainty sauce that remained on the table, for it is not fitting that at a banquet dry bread should be given to a guest by the host, and gave it to Judas, that by this sign He might indicate him to John as the traitor. The other apostles did not hear the words of Christ to John about this way of pointing out the traitor, He having spoken quietly to John in his ear.
Moreover, Christ pointed him out by this sign with peculiar fitness, bread which we eat at table being a sign of peace and friendship, so that Christ showed by it, not only who the traitor was, but also the nature and mode of his treachery, for Judas was to betray Him by a similar sign of friendship, a kiss.
Mystically this dipping of the bread denoted the falseness and fraud that was in the soul of Judas, says St. Augustine. Again St. Cyril and Augustine say that Judas was pointed out by Christ by the morsel of bread that the words of Ps. xli. might be fulfilled—“He that eateth bread with me hath lifted his heel against me.” Indeed Chrysostom says that by this very act Christ here upbraided Judas with this, as if He had said, How is it, Judas, that thou, a companion of My table, art not ashamed to betray Me? Judas, then, having received the morsel from Christ, feeling by his own evil conscience, and by this sign, that he was a marked man, persisted shamelessly and obstinately in his intention of betraying Christ. For seeing himself found, out and disgraced, as it were beside himself and infuriated, he went forth at the devil’s prompting to finish his crime, going to the chief priests to ask them for guards who, with him for their leader and guide, should seize Jesus.
Though Matthew puts these words and Christ’s answer before the Eucharist, so that S. Augustine (De Consensu, Evang. bk. iii. ch. 1) thinks that they were spoken before it, yet from the words of Luke and John it is plain that they were spoken after the Eucharist. For it is altogether likely that Judas, when he heard Christ’s answer, Thou hast said, straightway went out embarrassed and indignant. Immediately, then, after receiving the morsel he asked, Master, is it I? received the answer, Thou hast said, and then went out at once, covered with shame and indignation.
Ver. 27.—And after the morsel Satan entered into him, urging and impelling him to avenge this his disgrace,—to betray to the Jews Christ who had betrayed his villainy. Satan, who had before entered into Judas for the plotting of the betrayal, as was said in verse 2, here again entered into him for its accomplishment; both because Judas, being already called by Christ and the apostles a traitor, dared remain among them no longer lest he should be ill-treated by them, and also because the hour proper for the betrayal, and appointed first by Judas, was near at hand—that hour, namely, when he knew that Christ would, after His wont, go out to pray on Mount Olivet, where He could easily be seized. Wherefore there was no need for John to point out Judas to Peter when Christ pointed out the traitor to him, for Judas soon betrayed himself both by his question and by his departure.
So Satan entered into Judas to take complete possession of him, and that with certainty and with a strong hold, so that he brought him soon to the halter. Not that the morsel given him by Christ put the devil into him, for this was a sign of Christ’s love by which He wanted to win the heart of Judas to love Him in return, but that Judas, ungrateful for this love of Christ, took it in bad part, thinking that Christ was giving him the morsel out of hatred and a desire to injure him and make his crime known to the apostles.
Wherefore, bidding farewell to the apostolate of Christ, he went away to the household and the bondage of Satan and of the Jews as a deserter and apostate. So S. Chrysostom, S. Augustine, and Cyril, who observes that a kindness hurts those who are ungrateful not of itself, but through their fault and ingratitude. S. Ambrose (De Cain et Abel, bk. ii. ch. 4) says—“When Satan put himself into the heart of Judas, Christ went away from him, and in that moment when he received the former he lost the latter.”
The devil entered into Judas for three reasons. First, for his ingratitude, says S. Augustine; for Christ having discharged all the offices of love towards him, and he not being moved even by these, was left to be fully possessed by the devil. Then again, because the devil knew from the words of the Lord and from outward signs that he was stubborn in his evil will, and given over by the Lord, says Chrysostom (Homily 71). Thirdly, because Judas himself understood that he was now found out, and, as it were, separated from the disciples and from their Master; so he became hardened in evil, and, as if in desperation, gave himself over entirely to the devil; and so it was that he went out, unable to bear the looks of his Lord and of the disciples, or, says Euthymius, following S. Chrysostom, fearing lest he should be torn to pieces by them. So Ribera.
Notice here in the case of Judas how a man who deserts Christ is palpably deserted by Christ, and when deserted is attacked by Satan—possessed by him, and, when possessed, hurried into every crime, and then into the abyss. Just as Judas from an apostle became a devil, so Lucifer from the fairest of angels became the darkest of evil spirits,—as the sourest vinegar is made from the sweetest wine, and the heretic—Luther, for instance—nay, the heresiarch, is made from the monk.
And Jesus said to him: What thou doest, do more quickly—more quickly, that is quickly, as the Syriac translates it; the comparative is put for the positive. Christ is not precipitating the treason of Judas, but He permits it. He says as it were: Think not that thy doings are hidden from Me; I know that thou art meditating treason. He did not tell him to commit the crime, says S. Augustine, but He foretold it, not so much in wrathful desire for the destruction of the villain, as in haste for the safety of the faithful. He permitted it, saying, as it were: Do what thou hast begun, finish what thou didst intend; in a thousand ways could I hinder thee, but I will not; rather do I leave thee to thy free will. Do what thou hast planned in thy heart.
Thirdly, S. Chrysostom says they are words of reproach. I know that thou art working great evil against Me, from whom thou hast received so many gifts; are these the injuries thou repayest Me for so many kindnesses? But do what thou hast to do. For even though I have made known thy crime, yet have I not done so as fearing it, nor would I wish to hinder it; for if I wished I could do so; but in order to cast before thine eyes thy malice and thy shamelessness, and to reprove thee.
Fourthly, they are the words of a lofty mind that despises all the machinations of Judas. St. Leo (Serm. 1, On the Passion) says, “It is the voice of one who commands not but permits, of one not fearing but prepared, who, holding all time in His power, showed that He allowed no delay to the traitor, and that He so followed out the will of the Father for the redemption of the world, as neither to prompt nor fear the crime that was being matured.”
Fifthly, they are the words of one excluding Judas, as incorrigible, from His family and the fellowship of the apostles. Since thou wilt sever thyself from us, I exclude thee from My table, from My house, My apostolate, and My companionship; get thee gone, then, to thine own Jews and to Satan, to whom thou hast sold thyself. So S. Ambrose (De Cain et Abel, bk. ii. ch. 4). Cyril (bk. ix. ch. 17), following Origen, interprets in a novel fashion, taking these things as said by Christ not to Judas but to Satan, who was entering into Judas. He says that, “Just as if a mighty man against whom some one advances with hostile intent, trusting in his own might, doubts not but that his adversary shall fall, and, with loud and threatening noise, speaks: What thou doest do quickly, that thou mayest know the strength of my right hand. Such words we would not call so much the words of one in haste to die, as of one who knew before that his adversary must fall. So our Lord bids the devil run quickly to the things he has made ready, that being conquered and bound he may the sooner relieve the world of his tyranny.” But from what we have said it is clear that this was said to Judas and not to Satan, as the Fathers and interpreters generally hold.
Ver. 28.—But of this, none of those at table knew why He said it, κ.τ.λ. For though they knew from the words of Christ that Judas was to be His betrayer, yet they did not know that he would betray Him that very night; and therefore they did not understand that Christ, when He said, What thou doest, do quickly, was speaking of His betrayal, but interpreted it with reference to the purchase of things needful for the celebration of the Passover, Judas being the steward of Christ and the apostles.
Ver. 30.—When, therefore, he had received the morsel, he straightway went out. Both because he then became possessed by the devil, and also because Christ by the foregoing words had expelled him from His household. The word “therefore” refers to both these reasons. S. Augustine remarks that, the unclean one going forth, all they that were clean remained with Him that cleanseth them, like the wheat when the tares have been separated from it. S. Cyril observes that the devil impelled Judas to go forth immediately to betray Christ, lest, by the virtue of the Eucharist which, though unworthily received, was pricking his conscience, he might repent and think better of his crime. Origen adds further, that the teaching of Christ was so efficacious as to move His betrayer afterwards to say: I have sinned in betraying the innocent blood, nay, even to such sorrow, that unable to tolerate life he hanged himself, “showing” he says, “how great was the power of the teaching of Jesus even in a sinner, a thief, and a traitor, seeing that he even could not altogether set at nought the things he had learnt from Jesus.” Hence we may gather that it is good to bring about delays in the way of those who are suffering a strong temptation from the devil to commit some sin forthwith; for through this very delay, the matter being more maturely considered, the vileness, the evil results, and penalties of the sin come to be seen, and deter the man from its commission; and at last the heat of the temptation abates and slackens by reason of the mere delay.
On the other hand, when we are following after good and virtuous intentions, as, for instance, a resolution to enter the Priesthood or the Religious State, there is need of haste, lest our relatives, our companions, or the devil, by interposing delays, succeed in frittering away the whole scheme. Hear what S. Chrysostom says (Hom. 57), “While this love is burning in thee, betake thee straightway to the angels themselves and inflame it yet more exceedingly. Say not, I will first speak to my relations, and set my affairs in order; for such delay is the beginning of torpor. The disciple would bury his father, and Christ suffered him not. Why so? Because the devil is eager and watchful to creep into the soul, and if he can seize but a brief delay brings thee to lukewarmness.”
S. Anselm and S. Bernard speak in the same sense.
And it was night. John adds this, first, for the sake of historical completeness, to mark the time when Christ was betrayed and seized by the Jews; secondly,—to indicate the haste of the devil, who drove on Judas late at night to go and look for the guards who were perhaps asleep; and, thirdly, says S. Chrysostom (Hom. 71), “that we may appreciate the rashness of Judas whom the unreasonableness of the hour did not restrain.”
Symbolically, the Gloss says that the night-time is in keeping with the mystery, for he that went out was a son of darkness and did the works of darkness. The night indicates the darkness of mind in which Judas was, says S. Ambrose (De Cain, bk. ii. ch. 4), also the impenitence and condemnation to the darkness of hell, to which Judas was on his way. S. Gregory (“Morals,” ii. 2), “By the nature of the time the end of the action is expressed, and Judas, who was never to come back to pardon, is recorded to have gone forth by night. . . . For this cause it is said to the wicked rich man: This night shall thy soul be required of thee. His soul which is being carried away into darkness, is mentioned as being required of him not by day but by night.”
Ver. 31.—When, therefore, he had gone forth, Jesus said, Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him—“is glorified,” equivalent to “is soon to be glorified,” the perfect put for the immediate future; Judas is now gone forth to betray Me, therefore is my cross and death nigh at hand, and so far is it from bringing ignominy on Me that, on the contrary, by it I am to be supremely glorified. For in it shall I be recognised as not only man and the Son of man, but also the Son of God and God; for the Divinity that lieth veiled in My humanity shall be recognised by the darkening of the sun, the cleaving asunder of rocks, the opening of sepulchres, the rising up of the dead, and the quaking of all the earth,—all these things shall show forth that God suffereth and dieth upon the cross. And again by its effects, for by the cross will I subjugate to Myself the whole world, all the devils, and sin, death and hell, as the God and Lord of all things. So S. Chrysostom, Cyril, and others. And here, note that by these signs God and the Godhead of Christ not only glorified the humanity of Christ but Itself also; for in them was made manifest the infinite goodness, power, wisdom, majesty, and glory of Christ’s Godhead.
Ver. 32.—If God is glorified in Him, God shall also glorify Him in Himself, and shall glorify Him straightway. If, that is because—because Christ, made obedient unto the death of the cross, hath by this His obedience, reverence, and sacrifice, glorified God the Father, therefore shall God the Father in turn glorify the Son in Himself, by demonstrating and making manifest the Divinity that is hidden in Him. And this straightway—quickly, for on the third day He shall raise Him up revived, and glorious in His death; on the fortieth day He shall cause Him to ascend in triumph into Heaven; and on the fiftieth to send down His Holy Spirit upon the apostles. By all these things He made known to the world that Jesus is not only man but God, and the Son of God. So Cyril and Chrysostom. Origen, in his 6th Homily, says that the glorification of Christ was twofold,—the former in His death, by which He was glorified in the lowliness of His mortality; and the latter in His resurrection, by which He was glorified in the sublimity of His immortality.
Secondly, S. Hilary (De Trinitate, bk. v.), and Toletus following him, think that God is said to be glorified in Christ, because He showed His own Divinity in His death and resurrection; proving Himself God and the Son of God by raising Himself from death, ascending into heaven by His own power, and thence sending down the Holy Spirit and working many wonders through the apostles. This interpretation is called for by the expressions—in Him, in Himself. The Godhead was veiled in Christ until His death, but it then shone out and thrust itself forth, showing Christ to be not only man, but also the Son of God, inasmuch as He raised Himself from death by virtue of His own Divinity. Origen says, “The Son is as Paul says, the brightness of the Divine glory, from whence come its splendours upon every rational creature; for only the Son is capable of comprehending all the brightness of the Divine glory.” The words “in Himself” may be referred, first, to “the Son of Man.” God glorified the Man Christ, by showing that He, as man, had God indwelling in Him, and the Godhead of the Word; and secondly, to “God”—God showing that the Man Christ subsists in the Divine Person of the Word, that is, in God.
Ver. 33.—My little children. Notice the tenderness of Christ’s feeling of love towards His apostles and the faithful. He says not “my sons,” but “my little children,” showing in our regard the heart, as it were, of a mother towards her newly born infants. Again, little children, because the apostles were as yet little in the faith and love of Christ, for they received its fulness and, as it were, their manhood from the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. Symbolically Cyril says that all the Saints are little ones in relation to Christ.
Yet a little (a little time) I am with you—because an hour hence I shall be betrayed by Judas and given up to the Jews. Christ is here taking His last farewell of His own. Farewell, He says, My well-beloved children, for I am going away from you to death, and after that I shall not converse with you as we have been wont, but shall return to heaven.
Ye shall seek Me, and, as I said to the Jews, whither I go ye cannot come. I by My death return to heaven; you, 0 apostles, bereft of My presence, shall seek Me in the tribulations and persecutions that await you, and shall wish that I were with you that you might consult Me in your doubts and receive comfort and consolation from Me in your troubles; but whither I go you cannot come, both because you cannot by your own strength—with your own feet and your own natural powers—follow Me when I ascend into heaven, and you have not yet the supernatural strength of grace. For you are not yet strong enough to be able to accompany Me to the Cross and the martyr’s death,—not yet so perfect in grace, strength, and love as to be fit for and worthy of the kingdom of heaven. Lastly, you cannot come there yet, because My Heavenly Father has determined to send you after My death to preach the gospel throughout the world, and bring all nations to My faith and salvation.
As I said to the Jews. This, says Chrysostom, He adds to show that it is nothing new or fresh, but foreseen and predicted long before, and decreed by the Father. Moreover, it was to reveal to them that they should suffer persecution and death at the hands of the Jews as He was ill-used and slain. Thirdly, to indicate that they, like the Jews, were to suffer many tribulations and, at length, death, though for a different reason and a different end. For the Jews, cut off by reason of their crimes, went into hell, but the Apostles, slain for the sake of the Gospel, took flight to heaven.
And I say to you now—both in order to protect and arm you against all the tribulations that threaten you, and also that you may know at this time that you cannot yet follow Me, but that you shall follow Me when perfected in strength and merits, and following Me dying in your own death, you shall earn by faith in Me the laurel of Martyrdom in the kingdom of Heaven. Hence Christ, clearly explaining to Peter, says at ver. 36; Thou canst not follow Me now, but thou shalt hereafter.
Ver. 34.—A new commandment I give to you; that you love one another. Why new? Various reasons are given. S. Augustine says, because the faithful, by love put off the old man and put on the new. “New,” says Jansenius, “that is renewed by Christ, having grown out of date in the minds of men.” Maldonatus says that “new” means excellent, surpassing. As in Rev. vii., the virgins are said to sing “a new song,” that is a remarkable one.
But I say that the command of love is called new, because it is the chief characteristic of the New Testament, and specially commended by the words and example of Christ; just as, on the other hand, the command of fear was the old command and the chief one among the Jews. The new law is that of love, as the old was of fear.
Secondly, because Christ here taught us this precept of love more explicitly, and more forcibly than it had been taught before; and for this cause He sent forth the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, that we might fulfil this new commandment of love with a new spirit of love.
Thirdly, and more appropriately to the actual circumstances, new in respect of the new object and cause of love. For when Christ the Head of the Church was incarnate, there was brought about a peculiar community and union among the members of the Church, both among themselves and with Christ their Head, now made of like nature with themselves. A union both through the human nature assumed by Christ, and by the grace whose influence He, as Head, brought to bear upon us as members, and chiefly by that Sacrament of the Eucharist here instituted by Him. And this union is the foundation of that especial and more intimate love between Christ and Christians, and of that greater obligation to love one another. For by this union we are closely bound not only to the humanity of Christ, but also to His Godhead and to the Blessed Trinity, and by and through it to one another.
This sense is implied by Christ when He adds: that you love one another, as I have loved you—because I have loved you in a new and especial manner, taking upon Me your flesh and giving it to you by means of the Eucharist which I have just instituted as the food of your soul, that in this Sacrament I might unite you all to Me, and to one another in Me; for this cause I likewise demand of you, 0 Christians, that you love one another with a new and peculiar love, not merely as man loves man, because of their common nature, but as a Christian ought to love one who is united to himself in Christ, a fellow-member of the same Church of Christ and participator of the same Eucharist. For Toletus rightly observes that this command is given not to all men, but only to Christians.
As I have loved you, that ye love one another; that as I, when I was in the form of God, for love of you took the form of a slave to teach you, save you, and make you blessed, so you too descend to any humiliation or hardship whatsoever in order to help one another. This is what John says in his first Epistle, iii 16—“In this have we known the love of God, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
The words, “as I have loved you,” are but taken as relating to those which follow—“that ye love one another.” Toletus, and others, place a colon before the former. The former part of the verse gives the substance of the precept, the latter signifies the mode of its proper execution. Moreover, this latter part supplies a sharp incentive to this mutual love, as if to say: The love of Christ to you, 0 Christians, should stir you up to love one another. For those whom Christ so loved you also, His followers, must love. And again Christ in His love asks that you love one another.
Ver. 35.—In this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love towards one another. My school is the discipline of love. If, then, you desire to follow Me as your Teacher, to be My disciples, and to be recognised as such by all men, love one another. This privilege is granted, therefore, only to charity. For it is not miracles that constitute us disciples of Christ, nor intellect, nor eloquence, nor strength, nor anything else but only love, says S. Chrysostom. For He is the Master, Leader, Prince, and Chief of love. Hence Paul says, Rom. xiii. 8, “He that loveth his neighbour hath fulfilled the law.” Such were the early Christians of whom Luke, Acts iv. 32, says, “And the multitude of them that believed had one heart and one soul, and had all things in common.”
Simon Peter says to Him: Lord, whither goest Thou? Peter, says Chrysostom, asked this not for information, but that he might follow Christ, whom he loved supremely. But Cyril says that he was presuming too far; for he thought that he could follow Christ through all, and he could not yet. Wherefore Christ repressed him, adding, “Thou canst not follow Me now, but thou shalt hereafter.” At Rome, before the gate of S. Sebastian, there is a spot where stands a chapel, and there Christ appeared to S. Peter, who, at the entreaty of the Christians, was fleeing from the Mamertine Prison. And when Peter then asked Him, Lord, whither goest Thou? He answered, “I go to Rome, to be once more crucified.” So S. Peter, understanding that Christ was speaking of him, went back to his prison at Rome, and was soon after crucified by Nero. And for this reason that chapel is called to this day the “Domine quo vadis?”
Jesus saith to him: Whither I go thou canst not follow Me now. Because thou hast not yet received the Holy Ghost, by whose strength thou mayest overcome death, says Cyril. For Christ must needs go first and conquer death. Thou hast not now that constancy of soul and strength to die for Me; but the Holy Ghost will come upon thee, and then shalt thou be able. Moreover, Christ had destined Peter to be Head of the apostles, Prince and Ruler of the Church after Himself, and Founder of the Roman Pontificate.
But thou shalt follow Me hereafter, on the cross, and, by the cross, to heaven. The love and zeal of Peter at this time merited for him the privilege of being the first to follow Christ on the cross.
Ver. 37.—Peter says to Him, Why can I not follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for Thee. Peter says this with his wonted fervour and zeal, but a zeal not according to knowledge. For, suspecting that Christ was going to death, as He had foretold, he offers himself as a comrade to share all dangers with Him. I am ready with Thee to take every chance of danger; I offer myself to Thee as a companion for all that may befall; with Thee and for Thee I will gladly welcome death. The affectionate feeling of Peter for Christ, though without effect, is worthy of praise; he had not yet received the wings of love from the Holy Ghost to fly to so lofty a cross.
Ver. 38.—Jesus answered him: Layest thou thy life down for Me? Verily I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow before thou deny Me thrice. Christ humbles Peter, who trusts too much in himself, and suffers him to fall, that he may learn to confide not in his own strength but in the grace of Christ. Wherefore Christ repeatedly made this prediction to Peter. Hear S. Chrysostom (Hom. 72), “Thou shalt know by experience that thy love is nothing without Divine grace. And hence it appears that Jesus permitted this fall for his benefit.”