Arts & Faith: Lent—Holy Thursday Imaginative Prayer Exercise

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As we move from Lent to Easter, we’ll provide Ignatian prayers for the Triduum, inspired by videos from Arts & Faith: Lent. The video and prayer for Holy Thursday are based on John 13:1–15. The art is a mosaic in the Basilica di San Marco in Venice, Christ Washing the Feet of His Disciples.

Preparation

Prepare for a period of meditation by sitting comfortably, closing your eyes, and breathing deeply for a moment or two. Allow any present concerns to move across your mind and wait off to the side for now.

Hands

Consider that Jesus sits with you. He is close enough that you can feel the warmth of his body. This makes you somewhat uncomfortable, because you weren’t expecting Jesus to be here. You wonder what he wants, and are you ready for this conversation? He does not move or speak, merely waits for you to grow calm.
Then he stands in front of you and reaches for one of your hands. “No, Lord!” you say. “I’ve been working all day; let me wash my hands. I’ll go to the restroom and freshen up—and then we’ll visit.” You’re thinking of everything your hands have touched today—public handrails on steps, seats on the bus, the trash can in your office—and you’re not sure when you last washed your hands.
But he takes your hand anyway. He holds your hand in both of his. He looks at it and then looks into your eyes. You don’t know what to do. Is there sticky juice on your fingers, from the orange you ate an hour ago? But then Jesus does an odd thing: he begins to massage your hand. Very gently, he applies pressure to every finger, working on the tension in the muscles you use so much. You notice just then that your fingernails could use some clipping, and you feel the embarrassment move over your face, a hot sensation. Jesus does not seem to care; his comforting touch moves from fingertips to wrist, causing tension to dissipate—tension you didn’t even know resided in your hand.
Jesus then reaches for your other hand. He spends several minutes applying the warmth and strength of his fingers to your tired, cramped hand. You finally get over being embarrassed and anxious, and you notice how much you have needed this. You’ve been using phone and computer, doing work around the house, taking care of the family pets, helping your daughter fix her hair. You look at your hands as if for the first time, and you see how many lines there are—how the years and the stresses have etched them. Jesus’ hands have lines, too—but mainly you notice how strong they are and that his touch brings warmth to your hands but also your whole self. It feels as if, with his touch, he is blessing all that you have touched and dealt with today.
You realize, then, how personal this is—Jesus massaging your hands as if he were your mother or spouse or doctor. This makes you feel vulnerable and yet loved. As if he reads your mind, Jesus says, “You see, I am always this close to you, and I don’t mind the dirt and imperfections. This is the closeness desired by God, and it is personal and it happens now, in this place.”
He lets go of your hand. “Now.” He smiles. “Whose hand might you hold this day? Be bold in your care for others. Desire love that is close by, compassionate, and personal.”

Concluding Prayer

Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son,
and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning,
is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Amen.
If you’re receiving this via e-mail, click through to watch the video Arts & Faith: Holy Thursday.

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