holy thursday foot washing

The Holy Thursday liturgy is rich with symbols and rituals. We commemorate the Passover meal, which was to be the last supper before Jesus`s death. Several themes are present: the institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the ordained priesthood, and the call to humble service. Which theme is highlighted and how the liturgy is celebrated can tell a lot about the theological leanings of the pastor and parish.

Here is one view from the pew…

Let us celebrate the Eucharist as the great sacrament of unity – a unity that transcends place and time. Holy Communion is healing food for us sinners. It is a source of energy on our spiritual journey. It should not be used as a tool of power or division.

In this scandal-ridden time of sadness and confusion, many of us are struggling with the exclusive and hierarchical nature of ordination. If Holy Thursday is a time to commemorate the institution of the priesthood, then we need to prayerfully ponder the meaning of priesthood for today.

The symbolic ritual of foot washing is too often a well-orchestrated spectacle. Many of us in the pews are immersed in the reality and messiness of service. We wash and care for our loved ones, from the wee babes to our elders. We teach and nurse. We serve and protect. We save and heal. We do this daily, without solemn processions and choirs singing. And, when we do, we aren`t surrounded by ministers and assistants carrying beautiful jugs, basins and fluffy white towels.

Rituals only have meaning if they are a sign of a deeper reality. Our church and our world are in need of true servant leaders. We are in need of men and women willing, like Jesus, to humbly bend before the feet of those they are called to serve.

3 thoughts on “holy thursday foot washing

  1. Dear friends,

    To all who are kind enough to subscribe to this blog via email…I spent some time last night editing today`s piece, but the changes weren`t shown in the published version. This post is now updated – hopefully with a better tone.


  2. Isabella, what you said today touched me deeply. Today’s blog is prophetic, a two edged sword,
    it is beautiful in what it says about sacrament and ritual, and it cuts to the heart with truth.
    Your statement: “Holy Communion is healing food for us sinners. It is a source of energy on our spiritual journey. It should not be used as a tool of power or division.” brought to mind several questions.

    When did the Eucharist become holy food only for the worthy, instead of bread for the starving world? The current practice of extending both cupped hands in the position of a beggar appears very appropriate to me. No one is “worthy” we are beggars who have found the food who tell other starving beggars where to go to get this nourishment.

    My wife, Joanne, and I are members of an inner city parish, Sacred Heart in Camden, NJ; and we are Eucharistic ministers there. Our parish is surrounded with drug dealers and prostitutes who sometimes come into the church during the liturgy. I know that over the years I must have given several of them “first communion”. When this has happened my thoughts are: “they are not worthy, neither am I”. “They are not as spirituality formed enough to receive communion, neither am I”. When I see them approach the Eucharist a few thoughts usually cross my mind: “well, finally we are all here”; “and the table just got bigger”! These same thoughts occur to me at large family gathering in our home.

    Remember, the gospel says that at the Last Supper Judas had already made up his mind to hand over Jesus. Jesus gave Judas communion. All of the apostles were about to betray him. There was no judgment about worthiness, and no power and control were needed.

    Let’s make the table bigger!

  3. I am sure that the foot-washing ritual at Sacred Heart parish is full of meaning…BECAUSE of the daily `washing of feet` that is embraced by it`s pastor and members.

    I never thought of the fact that Jesus gave communion to Judas and all the disciples, knowing they would betray him. This is a powerful image, and so true!

    As always, thank you Ray for deepening the dialogue. You always give us so much more to think about.

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