Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Foot Washing on Holy Thursday

When it comes to the subject of "change" we humans are an interesting lot. We can vary from one end of the spectrum to the other.  Some embrace change with excitement and anticipation, some are doubtful and hesitant, and some are completely resistant to change - "not me, Lord!". I am embarrassed to admit that I more often than not fit in this last group.

At Holy Thursday Eucharist this year we had the reading of the story of the Last Supper from John's Gospel (Jn 13:1 - 15) which focuses on Jesus washing the feet of his disciples and not the Passover meal which the other three evangelists highlight in their Gospel of the Last Supper.

For years the tradition here at Saint Benedict was that twelve Sisters and guests would sign up ahead of Holy Thursday to have their feet washed by the Prioress at Holy Thursday Eucharist. This year we made a big change, one could say a complete 180 degree turn around:  rather than only the Prioress washing feet we chose to emphasize Jesus' words "As I have done for you, you also must do." As Sister Mary Weidner who gave the homily that evening told us: "Here, rich and poor, saint and sinner, educated and un-schooled, old and young, men and women - are all equal members of the one body. There are no walls, no separations, no first place and last place here." The logistics of being prepared to wash many feet that evening were thoroughly planned, every detail attended to. Several options were possible:  one could come forward and have one's feet washed by the person ahead of you and you could wash the feet of the person after you.  Or, if you had difficulty rising from the floor or from a small stool, then a sister was available to wash the feet of the person coming after you. However, nothing was more important that evening than experiencing "divine courtesy, the caress of Jesus, the absurdity of love - because our hearts have reasons that reason does not know." (Mary Weidner, OSB)

There were tender and touching moments during the foot washing in our chapel last Thurday. In case we were tempted to be distracted from the purpose of our gathering together that evening, Sister Mary reminded us in her homily that "Eucharist and foot-washing go together . . . The AMEN we say when receiving Eucharist is probably the most important act of faith that we make.  That AMEN is essentially a commitment to be Eucharist, to be present, to be involved, to be of service, to break our bodies and pour out our blood for the life of others."

May your hearts be filled to the brim with Easter Joy!

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