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February 2005 

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Eucharist: a practice without domination.



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Eucharist: a practice without domination.

" During a meal, […] Jesus raised from the table, removed his coat and taking a cloth he tied it round his waist. Then he poured water in a basin and began to wash the feet of his disciples and to wipe them with the cloth from round his waist" John 13, 2-5

In John's Gospel this part replaces the institution of the Eucharist in the other Gospels where Jesus took the bread and a cup of wine to announce that this food represents him giving himself. These two accounts strengthen each other, one under the form of a gift, the other as a service that is given.

laver les pieds To wash the feet of his friend, Jesus dressed like a slave. Often the slaves, mostly women, were in charge of this work, so useful considering the state of the roads, full of dust. So that we understand that Peter indignantly refused. "You, Lord, washing my feet! No, no, you will never wash my feet! 
For him it was the utmost humiliation. But Jesus was not forced to accomplish this service. He was not in the status of a slave; he was free. He was the Master and the Lord. He was not at all in a submissive attitude. In this action, Jesus expressed his refusal of a superior status that he was "entitled to" and more generally his refusal of any domination of any body on any one else. "From now on I do not call you disciples but friends"

In kneeling at his friends' feet, Jesus reversed the position of man towards God. In fact, it is not man any more who raises his eyes to God but God who raises His eyes to man. God put himself at the service of men to very end, in kneeling before them, he gave up to be the almighty God. But in doing so, are men going to take advantage of Him? Is He not going to be overcome by them?

dernier repas 

It is there that we get back to the meaning of the bread and the wine of Jesus' last meal. Jesus becomes as available as food and drink to fulfill the human needs. He is at the disposal of the hungry and the thirsty. He entirely offers himself without any dominating attitude. And he asked us to do it in memory of him. From this we feel how are inappropriate all the rules imposed to the Eucharist and the limits assigned to have access to it. Jesus did accept all the risks of our liberty. He did not give a limit to his gift: "All of you eat and drink, it is for the crowd" To exclude some body from Eucharist means removing its character of being a free gift, its character of a gift given without counting and without domination.

Every body is then invited to relate to others without a dominating attitude. "If I, the Lord and the Master, washed your feet, you too should wash the feet of one another" There is not any more the need to wash other's feet, it does not figure any more in the rules of welcoming our guests but we still have to be at the disposal of the others and to listen and to help every body. It is the only way to consider them as brothers and sisters and to stop any desire to dominate them. Doing so they will feel themselves existing as human being, in the full sense, able to relate at the same level with the others. Eucharist without an action of service is deprived of its meaning.

ressouces en humanité The attitude of having no-domination is not an attitude of weakness but of strength. "Nobody is taking my life, it is me who gives it". It is the power of a powerless love. To adopt such an attitude, we have to be strong and to know how to develop all our skills in humanity. 
This does not surge from a will of power or pretending but from diversified relationships and a faith in an original unconditional love that preceded us. We have to open ourselves to our own capacities as well as to others. In these conditions we will be able to practice towards each other a no-dominating attitude opening to a communion of fraternity that is a prelude to the completeness of a promise life. Is it not the profound meaning of the Eucharist?