Sermons Preached by the Most Reverend and Right Honorable Arthur Michael Ramsey, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury in New York City October, 1962.
Typescript from the Archives of the Episcopal Diocese of New York.
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2010
The text from which these transcripts were derived is labeled as having been taken from tape recordings made during the sermons.
At Trinity Church, New York City,
Sunday, October 14, 1962
The Second Epistle of Saint Paul to the Corinthians, Chapter 13, Verse 12:--"The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."
These words are very familiar to churchgoers. Again and again they come at the end of our service: "The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit". And the words are so familiar that, I'm afraid, we often do not pause to take in what tremendous words they are. We know that they come at the end of the service, and I'm afraid that we sometimes slip into thinking of them as a sort of signal that the service is over; now's the time to collect our hats and coats--and out we go. But if we always paused and realized the overwhelming depth of meaning in these words, they would make all the difference to our worship of God in church, and all the difference to the rest of our lives as Christians.
Think how stupendous the words are: "the grace of Christ". That means nothing less than the personal impact of Christ Jesus Our Lord upon us, to make us quite different from what we were before. It means that here, this morning, we have in our midst the Lord Jesus very near to us, just as he was so near to those who saw Him in the towns and villages of Galilee, or by the lakeside, or in the streets of Jerusalem; and that He here and now can have the same effect upon us, that He had upon them. That is what His grace means. You know, perhaps, the old child's definition of grace, and I think it is impossible to improve upon it:--"Grace is the power Christ gives me to make me like Himself."
And what were the effects that Christ first had upon those who encountered Him? There were some who felt very guilty on account of their sins, and He brought to them the assurance of forgiveness that lifted a load off their hearts, when He said, "go in peace and sin no more." And if that's you--if you are burdened with a feeling of guilt, be very sure that the absolution that Christ brings--that is, if you confess your sins and ask His forgiveness--can be real and overwhelming.
And there were those, alas, who did not realize their sinfulness, because they were just complacent about themselves; and His grace brought home to them the real state of their need, so that they could see themselves in the sight of God, and not just in the sight of their friendly and congratulating neighbors. And if that's you--and perhaps it is--be very sure that the grace of Christ can bring you to a sense of what you really are in the sight of God's love and righteousness, and beget in you a real contrition for your sinfulness and a longing for His pardon. That's another thing that the grace of Our Lord can do for you.
And then there were others who were filled with sorrow. Sorrow, fear and anxiety about themselves or about their friends or about the world was in their hearts. And Christ brought to them a Heavenly peace and joy; a peace and joy which He could give as a Heavenly gift, but the world and the world's environment could not possibly give to them. And if that is your case, and if that is your need, be sure that the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ can bring to you a supernatural joy and peace through the fixing of your will upon the Divine Will. Remember the great words of Dante:--"in His will is our peace." And in todays Collect we have just been praying, "grant that Thy grace may prevent and follow us". Remember that grace means the personal presence of the Lord Christ with its great impact upon you. And would that when those words come, as they do at the end of so many of our services, "the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ", we realize that it means no less than that for us.
Then the Apostle says, "The Love of God." We only have the grace of the Lord Jesus because the love of God was and is so infinitely great, that He gave Christ, His son, the greatest gift that He could possibly give. We talk in a facile way about the love of God for the world; but when we say that God loves the world, we mean that the Holy Trinity of God's love falls upon every single man, woman and child in the world, as made in His own divine image. On the West Front, on the Cathedral of Chartres in France, there is one of the most beautiful sculptures in the whole world. It is a sculpture called 'The Creation of Adam', and in it the hands of God are depicted resting on Adam's head, as He moulded the first man into existence. And in the sculpture, there is in the hands a wonderful strength, and care, and tenderness, almost unbelievable in their execution by the sculptor's craft. Well, the love of God means that strength and care and tenderness of the Creator rests upon every single one of us. God cares for you all that much; and this infinity of His care rests upon you, and you are there at all only because of the great love of God for you; and you survive at all only because of His great love for you. And the purpose of your existence and existence for all eternity, to which this visible life is only a little prelude--the purpose of it is that God cares for you so much that He wants to have you in fellowship with Him forever. That is what "the love of God" means. And let the realization of it really come home to the imagination, when we hear or use those words, and you will find it makes a difference. You will find yourself humble to the dust; you will find yourself full of gratitude; you will find that the whole scale of priorities and concerns in your life may be turned upside down, because the first thing--the love of God and your response to it--will indeed come first.
And then, "the fellowship of the Holy Spirit". Do you realize how naturally and inevitably that flows from the grace of Our Lord and the Love of God? If God so utterly loves us, He will want to give to each of us the greatest gift He could possibly give, and that gift is nothing less than Himself. The gift of the Holy Spirit; it means literally God in you: God on the soil of Palestine, the Lord Jesus; God the infinite creator, the Father; God literally in you in the Holy Spirit given at Pentecost and given through the ministrations of His Church all down the ages. Well, inevitably those who possess that gift are in a fellowship quite wonderful, because the gift unites them to one another. And if, when those words come in the Blessing at the end of the service, we really realize to our imaginations what they meant, we should go out of the House of God realizing ourselves to be a family through our possession of this great gift, and all our actions towards one another would be the actions of members of a family.
But we know that the family is not just a local Christian family here inside your beautiful Trinity Church (and believe me, it is a joy and a privilege to me to be worshiping with you in this glorious church today). But the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is not, you know, just your family here. It is the one Holy Catholic Church throughout the whole world. And on that point, let me say only this: the reality of its unity as one, Holy, Catholic Church, persists in virtue of our common baptism, and in virtue of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in those who are Christ's. The tragedy is the cleavages and divisions brought about by centuries of involvement of the Church in all the ups and downs of history, in the countries and continents. Thank God we can with confidence say this: there have been times in history when the most powerful forces in Christendom have been towards division--have been viciperous. We live, thank God, in an age when, without a shadow of a doubt, the dominant forces are towards unity. For unity we work and for unity we pray.
And let me allude to just one aspect of it. Our lot, by God's providence, has been cast in the Anglican Communion. What is that? The Anglican Communion is just a portion of the one, Holy, Catholic Church; it is a portion which includes your Episcopal Church in the United States; it includes our Church of England at home; it includes many other churches--not all of them English-speaking, in many different parts of the world--all bound together by a Prayer Book which, with a number of variants in different parts, nonetheless expresses nothing sectional, nothing denominational, nothing confessional, but simply the primitive, catholic, Apostolic faith--embodied in the Scripture, the creeds, the sacraments and the apostolic ministry of bishops, priests and deacons. A catholic ministry--a bond of continuity and unity down the ages and across the world. And within that Anglican Communion our lot is cast. It is, in a way, a microcosm of the unity of the whole church and, loyal to the Anglican Communion, we reach out on either side, striving to build up a unity, and one day God will bring all Christ's disciples in the world into a unity in the truth. And meanwhile, we, in charity and humility towards those of other communions, remain loyal to that which we have received, believing in that which has been entrusted to us--not just for our own good, but that we may use it in the building up of the unity of God's one family throughout the world.
"The grace of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit". It is a great joy to me to be visiting your country. I hope and pray that my visit may serve the friendships of our countries, and may also serve our family fellowship of the Anglican Communion of which the Archbishop of Canterbury is the shepherd and servant in God's name, and of which the See of Canterbury is a symbol--a symbol of the unity of our whole family.
"The grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit". You who worship in Trinity are wonderfully pledged to that great reality--the reality of the triune name of God, the triune name of God speaks of the infinite love of our Creator, and Our Savior, and nothing matters more for any of us that this--that we should gratefully spend our lives, knowing that the supreme reality over all else--demanding our allegiance, loyalty and gratitude, is the grace of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
At Church of Saint John the Divine, New York City,
October 14,1962, at 4:00 p.m.
The Acts of the Apostles, Chapter II, Verse 22:--"They continued steadfastly in the Apostles' teaching, in the fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers."
"They continued steadfastly in the Apostles' teaching, in the fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers." Whenever Christians seek renewal In their Christian life and faith, they cannot do better than look back to the very early days of the Church and draw inspiration from what they find there. Saint Luke tells us, in the second Chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, that the infant Church in Jerusalem was distinguished from all the other societies that existed in the world by having four great marks: the Apostolic teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and the prayers.
First, the teaching. It is hard for us to realize how thrilling it must have been for the members of the Church, on every Lord's Day when they met together, to have as their teachers, men who had been intimate disciples and Apostles of the Lord Himself. Think of it, week by week to be learning about the Lord Jesus from men who had themselves been with Him, in Galilee, in Jerusalem, who with their own ears had heard His teaching, and with their own eyes had seen Him risen from the dead on the evening of the first Easter Day. Small wonder that the members of the Church wanted no other teaching and no other teachers than the teachers who could tell them with authentic knowledge of the truth which the Lord Jesus Himself had brought from the Heavenly Father to feed the souls of men. And in their teaching, despite the derision of wise men outside the Church, they continued steadfastly.
Then there was the fellowship. The members of the first Christian Church found themselves a closely knit family fellowship. That was because they all possessed the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit of God, God Himself, indeed, dwelling in them. And possessing this gift, and possessed by it, they were lifted out of themselves into an amazing family unity. And, as the Church began to spread, it was a unity embracing nations and races. When Phillip converted the African eunuch, whom he found reading the prophets sitting in his chariot, and that African joined the Church, he was not told that he and his family would worship separately from the others. No, the brotherhood of races in the Divine Family must have been assured from the first. The Fellowship--and in this fellowship they continued.
And in the breaking of bread--On every Lord's Day, every member of the Christian family would be in his place for the family feast of fellowship which the Lord had given to them. And in that family feast, on each Lord's Day, they were united yet more closely to one another; but supremely they were united to the Lord Jesus Himself, in great joy and in deep awe, because it was upon the Lord Jesus, once crucified and now risen, that they fed--a heavenly food. The bread that fed their souls was His broken body, and the wine that fed them was His outpoured blood.
And last, the prayers. They were a great and new reality in the world. There had indeed been prayers in the world before--both by Jews and by the heathen, in accord with whatever knowledge of God they possessed. And yet, in the prayers of those first Christians there was something new--a new unbounded confidence as they lifted up their souls to the Heavenly Father, and perhaps also a new awe and dread, because their knowledge of God's majesty was no less great than their knowledge of His loving tenderness. And this height and depth and breadth of prayer in the early Church, was it not due not only to the sublime teaching about prayer which Our Lord had given them with the "Our Father" pattern, but also to the fact that by His coming and Incarnation, He had made God so wonderfully near to them. It was the nearness of God in the Incarnation, whereby Heaven touches earth and earth touches Heaven, that prayer and adoration, and intercession are made new--a mighty force which the Christian Church did not fail to use.
So we can chart the Church, growing from the city of Jerusalem across the world, continuing steadfastly in the Apostles' teaching, and in the fellowship, and in the breaking of the bread, and the prayers; and through the years and through the centuries, amidst all the persecutions and mishaps of history, the Christian Gospel, Faith and Church spread around the world--across land and sea, continuing steadfastly in these four great things. And so it is that, approaching 2000 years after Christ, we now as Christian people find ourselves, as the Lord Himself predicted, the members of a Christian fellowship extending all over the world. The Gospel has indeed been brought to every continent and, I believe, to every known country on the globe. But we also find ourselves, as the Lord had no less clearly predicted, in a world in which the forces of evil have been gathering with new vigor. For it is never promised by Christ to His disciples that there would be a gradual progression of good and a gradual evacuation of evil; rather, that the conflict between good and evil (would continue) with increasing fury before the final vindication of God's kingdom by the power of the Cross. And it is in such a setting that we meet for worship in this great Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. And I, from our Church of England, and from my See of Canterbury, greet you in Christian brotherhood, bringing to you the greeting of our Church in England--a Church where our prayers for you are constant, and our thanksgiving no less constant for your continuance in the Gospel, and for those loving prayers by which you in turn keep us strengthened and supported.
And, looking at this situation in the world--with the Christian faith widespread and the powers of evil no less widespread--can we do better for the renewal of our own faith and witness than to ask that our hold may be made more sure on these four great primitive realities, or rather that their hold on us may be made more firm and sure.
The Apostles' teaching:--We do not, it is true, have Christ's own Apostles standing before us to teach us about Him. But let there be a greater vivid gratitude for the wonderful thing that we do possess; we do possess, in the Gospels and the Apostolic writings, the vivid teachings of Our Lord and of his disciples. And if only we could shake the cloud of familiarity away from those Holy Scriptures, we would find them leading us vividly to the feet of Our Lord, listening to Him, seeing Him, just as those who knew Him so well on the soil of Palestine saw and heard Him. We have indeed the Apostolic witness to the Lord in the Scriptures--so marvellously vivid--if only we would pause and realize again what a wonderful treasure we there have. A treasure that is to use--so that those of us who teach the Christian faith do not only teach the facts of it, but bring home to our hearers how very vivid and wonderful those facts are. And so that all who learn the Apostles' teaching are filled with a sense of wonder about it. Throughout the whole of our Church, let the hold of the Apostles' teaching upon us, in the Scriptures and set out so gloriously in the Creeds, renew its hold.
Then there is the fellowship. It is (tape unclear) that in every way possible, our witness to the fellowship should be wider, deeper, more piercing. Let every (tape unclear) congregation see to it that it is indeed a Christian family fellowship--its members unselfishly bearing one another's burdens in such a way that the stranger, the outsider, sensing the reality of brotherhood in the Christian community is led to say--not in irony, but in deep recognition--"See how those Christians love one another". Let our witness to the fellowship be certain and unequivocal in the matter of partnership between the races, so it is clear that white and black, men and women, Christians of every race and color, are together as one family in the House and the Family of God.
But the fellowship reaches more widely; there is the one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ throughout the world. Here we rejoice that the fellowship is a divine reality, and a divine reality in the deepest plane--it is unbreakable because there is the one Baptism, the one Spirit, and the one Lord Jesus. Yet, asserting gratefully the fact of this Christian brotherhood, we bitterly lament the divisions which the ups and downs of history have brought to the Church in the course of its involvement with the world. Let me say here just this:--we can thank God that, while there have been stages in history when the dominant forces in Christendom have been towards division--viciperous forces--we unquestionably live now in an age when the dominant forces in Christendom are towards unity. Let us thank God for that; and let us, each in his own way, serve those forces and not hinder them. And here I would speak of the role of our Anglican Communion.
What is the Anglican Communion? It is a family of Churches--your Episcopal Church in America is one of them, our Church of England, the Provinces of Canterbury and York, is another, and it includes many churches in different parts of the world--not all of them by any means composed of English-speaking people, held together by the brotherhood of an Episcopate in communion with the See of Canterbury, and held together by the Prayer-book which, despite sectional variance in different parts of the world, presents everywhere not anything confessional, or sectional, or denominational, but simply the fundamental principles: the catholic principles of the Scriptures, of the Creeds, the sacraments and the three-fold Apostolic ministry of bishops, priests and deacons, and the bond of continuity down the ages, and the bond of unity across the world. The Anglican Communion, in which providence has set us, is like a microcosm of the whole Catholic Church of Christ, and serving Christ loyally in this Communion where He has providentially placed us, we reach out on either side in the quest of unity, striving to build up the unity of the one Catholic Church. Here again not, please God, the (tape unclear) principles that are sectional, or denominational or confessional, but simply on those Scriptural and catholic facts and principles that Christ gave to us, not mainly for our own good, but that we may share them with others in the building of the One Body of Christ. In all these ways we are called in our own generation to serve the fellowship, to help the fellowship, to be deeper and more true.
The breaking of the bread. In my own country, in parish after parish, the breaking of the bread--the Eucharist--has come to be truly the center of parochial worship and fellowship, and I do not doubt that it is the same here in your dioceses and parishes. Let us then continue steadfastly in the breaking of the bread. But ought we not to realize more vividly, and help others to realize more vividly, that it is Christ's broken body and outpoured blood before which we kneel and which we receive? Let there be in our Eucharistic worship, as we approach the altar of God, a deeper care in preparation, a more (tape blurred) self-examination, confession of our sins and deliberate seeking of the absolution of Our Lord, because every time we come to His altar, we come, as it were, to Calvary, and we look upon the wounds with which we have pierced Him. Let there be a deeper note of penitence in the life of our Church--the note of penitence linked with the note of grateful Eucharistic worship and adoration.
And last, the prayers. Again and again every member of the Church finds his conscience pricking him and telling him that he or she ought to be praying far better than we ever do. Which of us does not feel that again and again? Ought we not to seek, first of all, more of the quiet daily waiting upon God and lifting up our souls to him. Seeking Him--"Oh God, Thou art my God, early will I seek thee." Does anything matter more in our hurried, noisy, contemporary life, than that every Christian should find time daily of real quiet for the soul's waiting upon God. An early Christian writer said:--"As the soul is in the body, so are Christians in the world." We live in a world that has lost its soul and is far out of touch with its creator. When Christian people lift up their souls in prayer to God, they are helping the estranged soul of the world to find its way back to the Creator who made it for Himself, so that every human heart is restless until it find rest in Him.
They all continued steadfast in the Apostles' teaching, in the fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers. Let us, gathered together in this great cathedral, renew our souls on these great divine gifts, and let us ask that they in turn may renew their firm hold upon us. And thus, witnessing in obedience to Christ Our Lord as the members of His family--the Church--spread out through the world, we may find happening in our midst what that primitive church found happening in its midst, and which (tape unclear) immediately describes so vividly. "And fear came upon all, and many wonders were done by the Apostles, and the Lord adds daily to those who were being saved."
Let us continue in faithful steadfastness, and there is no limit to the generous power of God to answer our offering, in the mighty winning of hungry souls to Him, and in the building up of the family of His Church on earth.
At the Clergy Quiet Morning,
Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, New York City.
October 15th, 1962
John 13: 1-7. "Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside his garments and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded."
I invite you, my brothers, to look with me for a few moments today at the scene of the feetwashing. Looking at the scene, we see first, Our Lord as the servant. We know that it was the custom in well-to-do houses in Jerusalem to employ a servant or slave at the door of the house to wash the feet of the guests as they came in from the dirty streets of the city. The Lord and His Apostles had no slave to wait upon them. The Lord rises from the table and, in answer to a foolish controversy amongst the Apostles as to who was the greatest, takes upon Himself deliberately the role of the slave. He serves the whole Apostolic body, He serves each of the Apostles in turn. And that lesson of the pedilavium has been understood by Christian people all down the ages. It has been imitated literally and throughout the world. On Maundy Thursday night in Benedictine monasteries, the abbot will solemnly wash the feet of all the monks under his care, in literal obedience to that which the Lord did. But it was an obedience, not literal but after the interpretation of the Holy Spirit that the Lord required. And each Christian generation has to seek the guidance of the Divine Wisdom as to those ways in which Christian people can put into practice that service of one another and the service of the world which the Lord enjoins.
Today, looking at the picture of Jesus as the servant, we apply it to our own priesthood. The priest, in obedience and in imitation of his Lord, is the servant. Each of you, my brothers, is the servant, and I am a servant too. We are all servants in our priesthood:--servants of Our Lord, and servants of our people.
May we meditate about that a little this morning. It means that the most exalted aspects of our office, and it is indeed high and exalted things that Our Lord entrusts us to do in His name, these do not make us proud, for they are all shot through and through with the spirit of the servant; and, at the same time, all those things in the execution of our office and ministry which may seem to be trivial or menial or small or irksome, all of these are exalted with grandeur and glory as the spirit of Christ the Servant penetrates them. "I am in the midst of you, as he that serveth." We ask ourselves, 'Is that the keynote of my own priesthood, as I daily set about my priestly work?'
Then, second, looking at the pedilavium, we see the divine glory and notice the words with which Saint John introduces the incident. "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he came forth from God and goeth to God again, took a towel and girded himself." What Jesus does, He does in the awareness that He comes from the Father and returns to the Father, and the whole plenitude of the Father's authority and majesty is in His hands. He is not laying aside divine glory when He so acts. He is not concealing divine glory. Rather, He is showing to the Apostles in blazing splendour, of what sort the divine glory really is. Moses of old had asked, "I pray Thee, show me Thy glory", and the answer was given, "Thou canst not see my face and live." And down through the ages the longing of men was constant to see the divine glory with their eyes. And now--here is the divine glory for the eyes of the Apostles to see; the glory shone in Jesus when, girded, He serves them and washes their feet. And such is the divine glory in highest Heaven. Ever and always it is the glory of a majesty that humbles itself. All through the patient age-long dealings of Almighty God with His created world, as He beams, stooping gently toward His creation in His humble approach to it in the pages of history: the great humility of Bethlehem, the great humility of the feetwashing, the great humility of Calvary. And Christianity has linked together those two words, 'great' and 'humble' as the very definition of God Himself. And so, the feet washing not only brings to the Apostles the example of a humble man for them to copy, it bids them look up to Heaven and worship and adore the glory of a humble God. Archbishop William Temple once said that it may help us to be humble if we look across the centuries and try to copy the example of a humble man, but nothing will humble us so much as to look up and worship and adore a humble God. So may we do for a few brief, quiet moments this morning--worshiping the glory of a humble God, whom the feetwashing betrays. Would that every one of us, as a part of our priesthood, put on our lips and on our hearts daily the prayers of Moses: "Show me, I pray Thee, Thy glory", and then could see vividly in the eye of our meditation, the glory of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples once again.
But then third, besides Jesus the Servant, and besides the divine glory, we see in the feetwashing the cleansing of the Apostles as a symbol of the cleansing by the Redeemer of the whole human race. He washes them one by one, and they accept the washing that He brings, until He comes to Simon Peter, and Simon Peter is resentful. "Lord, Thou shouldst never wash my feet." It is easy for us to enter into Simon Peter's feelings and to understand them a little. After all, Simon Peter has been learning through the months to serve Christ. Serving Christ has become his ideal, and painfully he has begun to learn it, and presently he will confess his ambition to serve Christ even to prison and to death. Serving Christ--that is what Peter is for; but letting the Lord serve him? It's incongruous, it's topsy-turvy, it's the inversion of what it ought to be. Christ serving Peter! Away with the thought! But Christ persists. "Unless I wash your feet, no relationship between you and me is going to be possible at all." And Peter resists. This little part of the episode has the most terrible implications for our own consciences. For how is it that our own humility is most severely tested? Most obviously, our humility is tested by our readiness to serve others, and it is the man who is unwilling ever to serve his neighbor who is written off as proud and unctuous. But that's not the most subtle test of our humility (tape unclear) is our readiness to accept the service of another.
There are some whose service we resist, saying, as it were, 'I don't need help; least of all do I need your help, thank you; this is something I know I can do; it is something within my competence.' But it is the willingness to accept the service of another that is the test of our own humility. And here especially, is it not the test in the readiness of you who are so frequently serving God and serving the Church and people in God's name, the test of being ready to let God serve us? Here is something crucial in the life of every priest, and there are priests who know it, who have again and again, in the bitterness of our contrition to learn it over again. We are busy serving God, week in week out, through every day of the week you, my brothers, will be serving God, and when Sunday comes you will be serving God with special vigor in the preaching of God's word, in the ministry of the sacraments, in the ordering of public worship, and in the organizing of the activities of the parish for the next week--and on and on in a ceaseless flow of energy of service. But the priest who never pauses is a peril to himself and a peril to his people, And the pause that God asks of us is readiness to halt, to be quiet, to stop going, to go in retreat, to go aside in quietness and there, coming to ourselves, to cease for the brief space serving God, and let God serve us. And the service that God plans again and again to give us, is to expose the faults in us which we hate to see, to lead us to confess them in a costly and contrite way, and then to come and absolve us, girded with the towel and with the basin of water in His hand. "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." The absolution that Christ longs to bring us is nothing less than His own service of us who are His servants, His service of us with the towel and basin of water. So, in the pedilavium, we see Jesus the servant; we see the glory of God, and we see the cleansing of men, and not least the cleansing of the apostles.
But the scene of the feet washing is a symbol and a prelude to the last great scene of Calvary which was to follow on the next day. The feetwashing, with its glory and its promise and its cleansing, is a parable of Calvary, in the service and the glory and the cleansing there to be found. And so, we follow Saint John the fourth Evangelist to the scene of Calvary. There Christ is rendering His final and all-sufficient service to the whole world, by the death of the righteous servant bearing the sins of men. But there too, in the same scene, there is glory. "Show me, I pray Thee, Thy glory"; and look at Calvary, and there is the glory of the divine self-giving love shining glorious. Jesus on the Tree is reigning as King. And there too, on Calvary, we see cleansing. Listen to Saint John: Jesus has died on the Cross, and the Roman soldier comes with the lance and pierces His sacred side, and there flows a stream of water and blood. And the Evangelist places the most intense emphasis on this incident. "He that hath seen hath borne witness, and his witness is true, and he knoweth that he saith true that ye also may believe." Why this intense emphasis upon the flowing of the water and the blood? Of course, it is the emphasis of the historian, and the Evangelist wants his readers to know it is solid fact and history; and an eye witness was there and really saw these things happen; and the Son of God did, in truth, die; and the water and the blood flowed from His side. But, knowing Saint John, we are always sure that there is not only history but also symbol in the things that he shows us, and so it is here. Water--what is water? Water that cleanses, and cleansing does flow to our sad and sinful human race from Calvary. The humility of Calvary flows like a great stream to cleanse the pride of men and nations. And blood, what is blood? Blood is sacrificial life, not just life, but life that passed through death; and not just death, but death that has the mighty potency of true sacrifice about it. And it is this sacrificial life that flows from Calvary--flows as a gift, so that, first in the community of the redeemed Church, and then amongst all men who are brought within that community, there may be lived out a life that is sacrificial; offered to God and offered to the world in sacrificial service.
So, in a few moments, we are going to have a little pause of quiet before I gather up the concluding prayers and Blessing. In that quiet, let us look with the mind's eye--first at the feetwashing (and there we see service, glory and cleansing) and then, if we so dare, our eyes can pass from the feetwashing to Calvary, and there again we see service and glory and cleansing. And this, my brothers, is the whole heart and content of the Christian Gospel of the great catholic faith, entrusted to us to preach to the people, to bring to the people so they too may be brought in fellowship with God. But it is vain for us to try and preach it and teach it and commend it, unless again and again we are ready in the quietness of our own souls to gaze upon the service, the glory and the cleansing which Our Lord would bring to us.