Thursday, 24 March 2016

Leaning Into Lent: Day 38—Feet

I am always a little uncomfortable about allowing my feet to be washed on Maundy Thursday. I’d rather be the washer than the washee. Peter may have felt something similar when he tried to avoid having his feet washed by Jesus in John 13, one of the readings for today from the St James Devotional Guide. But he was missing the point. The foot washing Jesus was doing was not so much about hygiene as it was about holiness. Same for me.

Every year when I invited the people I served to come and have their feet washed on Maundy Thursday (always in an Anglican decently-and-in-order sort of way by which the custom was all may, none must, some should) I did so, as according to the words in The Book of Alternative Services,
that I may recall whose servant I am by following the example of my Master (p305). 
Holiness, not hygiene. As a result of that simple, moving rite one year, I received this note from an elderly woman saint in the parish:
Lent is one of the Church seasons when I quietly reflect on Jesus’ journey to the cross and his crucifixion. Maundy Thursday seems to me to be almost as sorrowful a day as Good Friday. The foot-washing ceremony is something I never took part in. This year as Maundy Thursday approached several of my friends told me what a powerful service they thought the foot-washing was.  
After a day and night of prayer and meditation, I realized that pride had kept me from the foot washing. Because of my hammer toes and rotten looking feet, I had never wanted anyone to see them. 
At the Maundy Thursday service, I was still ambivalent about having my feet washed. Images of Jesus washing his disciples feet flooded my thoughts and I said to myself, “Do it.”  
As my feet were being washed, a feeling of great humility came over me. As they were being dried, I felt a great desire to wash another’s feet. While doing so, I was filled with ecstasy and great emotion. I felt myself to be in a more spiritual realm. My soul was filled with wonderment and love. I was at the foot of the cross; a more fervent believer than ever before. 
That’s what observing Holy Lent on Maundy Thursday can do.