Thursday, March 24, 2005

Holy Thursday 

The Washing of Feet

This image of Christ washing the feet of his disciples is by Leszek Forczek from a series. You can see more in this series by clicking on the picture.

I have managed, somehow, to avoid going to church on Holy Thursday and tonight was my first attendance at a foot washing, in any faith. Our RCIA instructors didn't make attendence mandatory at Chrism Mass and Holy Thursday and Good Friday, but they strongly recommended we go so we can learn more about the Easter Triduum.

The Mass was long, nearly two hours long. Our priest came in with many alter boys and incense was swung all around the oils the Bishop blessed at the Chrism Mass. The oils were near the alter on three different pedistals. Our readings were from Exodus 12 concerning the Passover, from 1st Corinthians 11 concerning the Last Supper, and from John 13 concerning Jesus washing the Apostles feet. Our priest processed down every aisle, back and forth, with the Gospels held high and incense waving before him before approaching the alter to read from John.

Father's homily was about how we don't replay the last supper at every Mass, we join in the original event. Receiving communion makes us different -- we become what we eat. Father said our world is a broken place, our church is a broken church, but we come together when we share in the body and blood of Christ. He mentioned Terri Schiavo and that she, too, joins with us through her past communions. Father mentioned how the law in Florida won't allow an animal to be starved or tortured by removing its water -- but look at our world, at our country allowing, actually demanding, that this woman suffer and die. (I saw many shaking their heads in agreement and disbelief at the cruelty being visited on Mrs. Schiavo.) We are better than this, Father said, we are different from this. We should focus on being Christlike, not just better than others. We are all invited to join Christ and we can either accept Him or reject Him. If we accept we need to go to regular confession, pray regularly, go to Mass regularly and become better people.

After the homily, twelve people, previously chosen, retrieved chairs and sat up front, facing the congregation. Our priest removed his vestments and rolled up his sleeves and washed each of their feet. Father never left his knees, but crawled along the floor, dragging a bowl, between the people. This, the crawling, was very effective for me and I could imagine the scene with Christ in place of our priest. Those chosen, young and old, men and women, were sober and dignified. All of them and our priest let the actions speak for themselves; none of it was belabored and it was really more powerful than I had imagined it would be.

After the foot washing, we held a normal mass. Normal, anyway, until the end when Father gathered up all of the host and put it away in containers instead of in the Tabernacle. When he had gathered all the host, an alter boy wrapped a gold stole with a red cross on the back around the priest. Our priest then wrapped the ends of the stole around the containers of the Host as if to honor and protect the Body of Christ. Then the alter boys with incense and candles led Father through every aisle among the congregation before placing the containers in a side room. After Mass we were instructed to be completely silent in the Church until the Easter Vigil, so we filed out without a word being spoken.

Earlier today I mentioned that the Agony in the Garden better defined the day for me, considering the events in Florida . . . but one has to wonder how the call to servitude, if allowed to be heard, would alter those events.

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