My one great sadness for today: we do not wash each other’s feet at Mass. We’ve fussed and fought about women and non-Catholics. We assume people won’t want to take off their socks and shoes. We use the Pilate gesture as a compromise. We complain about too much time, yet we pray until midnight.

It’s about as close to a commandment as one can get. Take and eat; take and drink. And yet, it’s only once a year. And yet, many of us still leave it for clergy and a select few to do:

So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. (John 13:14-15)


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to Mandate

  1. Liam says:

    “many of us still leave it”

    In the liturgy of the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, that is. Because that’s what the liturgical rite obliges (at least in terms of *who* is washing; as for those being washed, all that is obliged is that they are chosen). That obligation, however, doesn’t preclude a more general (especially in terms of *who* is washing) washing of feet in other contexts. Such as after the liturgy. Or before the liturgy. Or at any other time (like on the morning of Good Friday when the daily Mass might otherwise be). Which possibly would be participated more intentionally if undertaken voluntarily, like other devotions/sacramentals.

    While it’s perfectly valid to have and express sadness about this, I would not encourage others *nurture* sadness about it. Because, in spirit, that would fly in the face of the very point of the ritual. Nurturing personal sadness – however validly afflicted – nurtures an energy that tends to get in the way of authentic service, because it’s ego-salving at a minimum and can become ego-serving.

    I say this in a spirit of solidarity, because my absence from Triduum liturgies, and my presence at the Mass of Easter Sunday is an annual occasional of remembrance of of sadnesses and losses. Losses of friends – with whom for many years I spend Holy Week in the trenches, as is were – to moving away and/or alienation from active practice of any faith. Losses of family (my father was a hair’s breadth from death on Holy Thursday 2 years go, and took another week to die on Easter Thursday, after sending his sons home on Easter Monday). Losses of treasured communities with whom I used to spend Holy Week – due to closure (in more than one case) or pastoral tyranny of divers sorts (also in more than one case). I observe Lent, and Easter, but both in a more existential way than I formerly did. The people for whom I long prepared a big Easter feast after an intense season of church-work, as it were, have moved away, even neighbors who weren’t involved in my particular community; and most of my local network is of people who have no interest in the spiritual dimension of these days, or worse, outright hostility – the ones who don’t are in the phase of life of having to travel elsewhere. I do cultivate a relationship with one local destitute person in particular, but must be mindful that boundaries are respected, so the ego doesn’t find a way into that – no heroics.

    I only go into this illustrative detail because it’s the context for what that has done for me towards the end of my sixth decade of life (next Lent, I no longer will have to practice fasting preceptually, just voluntarily, as it were) is it has given me the opportunity to be aware of these layers of sadness – and of how those kinds of things interweave into all sorts of reactions to what is and isn’t happening in the church, nation and world. Last month was also the 50th anniversary of my first confession and first Communion, and an occasion to take stock of remembering what I may have envisioned at that time, and what has transpired in the ensuing decades, and what the future holds.

    The common result from all of this reflection is: letting go of baggage, however validly acquired, that is no longer serving a fruitful purpose. Especially expectations, as opposed to hopes. That seems to my soul, for now, to be very much in the spirit of the first Paschal Triduum.

    Maybe next year I will sense differently about this.

    A blessed Easter to you and your family.

  2. Todd says:

    Comment fixed.

    I hope I don’t “nurture” the sadness. Sadness is a part of human life in the mortal realm. I am not as holy as I could be. The Church is not as holy as it could be. Our liturgical expressions fail to make the impact they could, and it seems our best response, in some quarters, is to complain when it is more than twelve, more than males, more than clergy.

    Holy Thursday is something I experienced significantly some months before my baptism, something I found moving in 1983 that led me, in part, into ministry, something I made a point of study in grad school, and the first liturgy of Triduum I felt I was able to grasp as a combination of a professional and a spiritually-minded disciple.

    Be assured: I do not dwell on it all year. Just when I see a monstrance or a row of 12 chairs prepared for tonight’s liturgy. Good Friday comes soon enough, and the focus changes.

    A blessed Triduum and Easter to you and all readers.

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