LIVING HOLY WEEK WITH SAINT EUGENE: HOLY THURSDAY AND THE INVITATION TO OUR UPPER ROOM

The Oblate community was Eugene’s constant point of reference, and he missed it whenever he was separated from it. His model for our religious missionary life was that of Jesus and the apostles. For him our communities were meant to be “cenacles” – just like the original cenacle, the upper room where Jesus gathered with his apostles on the first Holy Thursday, and where they prepared to receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

After his unhappy experience of the Holy Thursday liturgy at the Royal Palace he wrote to his community that he was united with them

when, for consolation, I took myself in spirit to that room that truly resembles the Cenacle where the disciples, prepared by the lessons they constantly receive in the Society, imbued with the spirit of the Savior who lives in them,
gather in the name of their Master to represent the apostles of whom Jesus Christ could say vos mundi estis [ed John 13,10 ”and you are clean”],
and wait silently and devoutly for the representative of the Master amongst them, at the word of commandment of the Lord, mandatum [ed. the command to love one another], to kneel at their feet,
washing and touching these feet blessed and commanded several thousand years previously by the prophet so as to be feet of evangelizers of good [ed. Isaiah 52,7 “How beautiful are the feet of the messenger who brings good news”], of preachers of peace,
touching, I say, respectfully his lips to these feet whereupon flames dart from his heart and envelope it as from a fount of living water which refreshes and spurts forth wherever eyes are turned.
What emotion! What sentiments! What fervor!

Letter to Hippolyte Courtès, 27 March 1823, EO VI n 98

In this poetic way Eugene describes once again the model of Jesus in the midst of his disciples to form them, to teach them in word and action, and then fill them with zeal to go out and be his missionaries. During this Holy Week, we are invited to the Upper Room of our lives to be formed in a special way through our participation in the Paschal Mystery.

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One Response to LIVING HOLY WEEK WITH SAINT EUGENE: HOLY THURSDAY AND THE INVITATION TO OUR UPPER ROOM

  1. Eleanor Rabnett, Oblate Associate says:

    We all know the story of Holy Week and of Holy Thursday most certainly, but as I sit here this morning it is as if it has all become quite personal just as is the invitation for us to enter into the “Upper Room of our lives”. I think of all the years that I did not go to church on Holy Thursday, and then when I did go I was quite unable to figure out why I had come. I would sit separate, towards the back of the church – not truly joining in, save to go up to receive the Eucharist. Then I would quietly slip out the door without returning to my pew for a moment of reflection and being.

    I began slowly to join in – it was hard to go up and allow another to wash my feet – there was an intimacy with that and it required humility. Much easier for me to wash the feet of another. But I did it and I moved to the front so that I could see what was really happening. I watched the love of those as they washed the feet of another. It was starkly visible and still brings tears to my eyes as I recall what I have witnessed – I think of Eugene’s words: “…touching, I say, respectfully his lips to these feet whereupon flames dart from his heart and envelope it as from a fount of living water which refreshes and spurts forth wherever eyes are turned.” I remember too when I first decided to take part and help with the set up and the mundane hidden things such as carrying the water and then helping to clean up after. Now I help in the coordination, the setting up and with any formation that might be needed. I still go up and wash the feet of the person in front of me in the line and then in turn have my feet washed. There can still be a lot of busyness that I can get distracted with as we move from one movement to the next. But I find a grace in all of it for not only are we – am I remembering and celebrating but I can help lead others (hopefully) so that they too might experience what I have experienced and received.Eugene’s words from the Preface come to mind “We must lead men to act like human beings, first of all,and then like Christians, and , finally, we must help them to become saints.”

    Soon enough it will be time for me to once again be led, but then that grace will be filled out with what I have done and experienced.

    What an incredible blessing to enter into Holy Week in this way. It is a little like being on a guided retreat even though we do not leave the busyness of our lives behind, we carry both. I am so grateful for this.

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