One of the reasons I keep coming back to the Fathers — particularly those that are not (for lack of a better word) “popular” — is that I keep finding passages of breathtaking beauty. Already, St. Ambrose in the preamble of his work On the Holy Spirit has produced a prayer that literally stuns me.
Having established the image of Christ as a sacrifice, St. Ambrose tells us:
I find the Lord stripping Himself of His garments, and girding Himself with a towel, pouring water into a basin, and washing the disciples’ feet.
He then does something remarkable. He reminds us:
The Lord Jesus wills also to wash our feet, for He says, not to Peter alone, but to each of the faithful: “If I wash not thy feet thou wilt have no part with Me” (John 13:8)
Therefore, St. Ambrose prays:
Come, then, Lord Jesus, put off Thy garments, which Thou didst put on for my sake; be Thou stripped that Thou mayest clothe us with Thy mercy. Gird Thyself for our sakes with a towel, that Thou mayest gird us with Thy gift of immortality. Pour water into the basin, wash not only our feet but also the head, and not only of the body, but also the footsteps of the soul. I wish to put off all the filth of our frailty, so that I also may say: “By night I have put off my coat, how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet, how shall I defile them?” (Song of Solomon 5:3)
What audacity! What boldness! What courage to ask the King of Glory, Creator of all that is and the Son of the Most High God to strip, put on the garment of a slave and wash our feet! And yet, the love of Christ is such that this is exactly what He wishes to do. It is enough to make me cry — that My Lord and My King loves me so much that He is willing to undergo such humiliation for my sake.
Come, then Lord Jesus, put off Thy garment…Amen. Amen. Amen.