It’s astonishing to ponder the many generations which have passed down the story of Christ’s institution of the Holy Communion, His betrayal at the hands of his friend, and His washing the feet of the disciples. The earliest image I found of the stories we tell tonight was a thousand years old; the most recent, less than twenty.
As soon as I saw this image, I could immediately identify with it. Peter is getting his feet washed and scratching his head at the same time. He is clearly thinking “I am doing what Jesus told me to do, but I don’t understand it.”
When I first lifted my foot to be washed by another person, it was because Jesus told me to; I didn’t understand it. When I first washed another person’s foot, it was the same. I was doing it because Jesus told me to; I didn’t understand.
I trusted that even though the act was uncomfortable and surprising, Jesus had a reason for telling His disciples that unless we participate, we have no part with Him (John 13).
As a parent, sometimes I need to tell my children to do something they do not understand. Sometimes I cannot fully explain. Sometimes I just have to trust they will understand later. (Yes, this applies to taking my children to church for the Triduum liturgies.)
As I have washed feet and had my feet washed over the years, I have come to understand more than I did at the beginning. I have come to understand that Christ calls us to be servants of one another. The symbol of that is the washing of feet.
I still don’t fully understand the practice of footwashing. But this year I will again participate, because I know I need to grow as a disciple. I will offer my feet to be washed and wash the feet of another. I will participate because Jesus tells me to.
A Prayer for the Day
Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord, who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life; and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
[Image: By Sibeaster (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]
How do you observe Maundy Thursday?
Greg Bowman says
John 13:3 “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 SO he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.”
Is any other “so” in scripture more of a non-sequitur? In one sense, v. 3 shows Jesus’ decision to go ahead with all that would come to take him through his ultimate obedience on the cross, but washing 24 feet is the first step in that pilgrimage. No one speaks before Peter’s incoherent protestations, no one after. They were taking it in–taken aback, taken in, overtaken by our Lord–and we still are.
You say it well, Nurya. I count it as a strange privilege to do as Jesus did with others who are, for their own reasons, willing to “do as I have done for you.”
Expat Princess says
It amazes me that Jesus washed even Judas Iscariot’s feet. He was “clean” until his heart rejected that piece of bread offered in friendship. Feet are sacred space.
AnnaMarie Hoos says
For me, Maundy Thursday is about intimacy, affection and love. There are eager, helpful, bouncy children and slightly frail elders in our congregation, both of whom have needed or will soon need help bathing, dressing and caring for their feet. This night brings into sharp focus the ways we care for one another and the simple things we use to do that (warm water, towels, scented oils), marking all our care for one another as holy.
I will never forget the first time someone kissed my feet after washing them, or the first time I did the same myself. But we would kiss our child or our grandmother after caring for them, and in this holy, liminal, awkward, loving space, these signs of affection come more easily. That is what I try to, want to carry from this liturgy into the rest of my life.
I’m definitely going to get a pedicure before I go to service tonite. Lol. I will wash other’s feet and have my feet washed. I will ponder the idea of being a servant in a world that only seems to value tyranny and oppression. I will imagine what it would have been like to sit at that table as a disciple.