On Holy Thursday we might recall the words of “Stay and Watch with Me”, fashioned from Jesus’ request of his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. I want to rewind to earlier in the evening and invite a careful watching there.
Jesus. Washing each person’s feet. He’s gotta’ know he’s in trouble, and that time is limited. If you’ve ever been part of a foot washing, you know there is an intimacy in caring for another in this way. Jesus washes each foot tenderly, thoroughly – and looks into the eyes of each individual tenderly, thoroughly. Does he hold on to each face, etching in his memory the twitches and eyebrow slants, the cuts of the jaws, the moving muscle in certain cheeks? Is he touching them with his eyes as a blind man touches faces with his fingers to sense the contours? Is there mourning and anticipated loss in the intimacy of washing and looking?
Jesus. Putting all of himself without question in their – and our – hands. No strings. No expectations. No ifs. Just “I want to give you all – ALL – of me. And I’ll be with you. Remember me.” Again, I imagine the eye contact. I look up into his face as he places the bread in my own hands in my imagination… and as he says, with longing, “I am yours now – entirely. I give you all of me, freely.” This moment of gift is for each of us.
My mind’s eye starts then to sketch the shape of his face, to look for the strength of hands and body as he leans to wash feet or moves about. I want to hold onto his physical presence too. I know this way of looking at visiting family members or friends who will soon leave – a searching cherishing gaze that hits RECORD, letting form and features be stored to hold on to in their absence. I find I want to ‘squirrel away’ these mind’s eye pictures of Jesus too, and wonder if the disciples knew to do so.
And tonight the words of John 15 that I love so much echo, spoken aloud by Jesus: “As the Father has loved me, so I love you. Live in my love.” Whether they were said that way exactly or not that night, the words are unerringly true. In the same way that the Father loves Jesus, with that same strength and depth Jesus tells us he loves each of us and asks only that we live in that love. If we do, we will learn to live from being God’s beloved one too.
Watch Jesus this night hold on to each person he loves with his eyes. Then move to the next moment which will take him to the garden and anguish and betrayal. He will be ripped away from these companions who mean so much to him – and they will run from him in fear for themselves, and anguish of their own.
This night is full of partings and promises, self-gift and the invocation to remember, traitorous kisses and weeping women, denials and communions, encounters with power and silence.
Watch not the night, but watch the man, this Jesus of Nazareth. What does he experience? What might he feel? What does he long for? What keeps him upright? Can you see how much he loves those he celebrated with, and how he hates to leave them? Let what you see sink deep and rattle around in your consciousness. And just be with him.
These days of Triduum are all about that; being with the One who is God with us.
Wishing you every good thing in the light of all this night holds in memory for Jesus, and for our own lives. Have a blessed Triduum.