Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. (John 13:3-5 NRSV).
Up until eight years ago, I never participated in the washing of feet during the Maundy Thursday Liturgy. Since that first time I had my feet washed and washed the feet of another person, I take part in this yearly ritual. It is a very special moment in which all of my pride takes a back seat. There is a tremendous amount of humility and vulnerability in having my feet washed and washing the feet of another person. When having my feet washed the person doing the washing gets to listen a little to my own personal story of where I have walked, what I have done and where I might be going. When I wash the feet of another person, I open myself up to listen to where the other individual has been, what they have been doing and where they might be going. Feet get dirty. Feet smell. Feet may be smooth or calloused. Yet, in that moment of washing feet there is an openness and an acceptance of God’s love for me and the opportunity to share that love with another person.
Among the many things that draws me to The Rule of Saint Benedict is in Chapter 53 On the Reception of Guests, he instructs the Abbot and the entire community to wash the feet of the guests. After washing their feet they will all say together “God, we have received your mercy in the midst of your temple” (Ps. 48:10). Actually look up Psalm 48:8 in The Book of Common Prayer on page 651. St. Benedict is allowing the guests to inconvenience the Brothers. When Guests come it is their (and our) opportunity to put aside our own agendas and preferences and serve Christ crucified in the other.
What a great mystery to lead us into contemplative prayer. Our loving God sees in us the goodness of Christ to give ourselves over in sacrificial love with Jesus to serve others in His stead. As we enter into this wondrous moment, God’s love penetrates the deepest part of ourselves and calls us to union with God in purity of heart.
What are you willing to do today to serve the presence of Christ in another person?
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB
See: http://www.cos-osb.org .