Monday, March 26, 2007

Instilling Humility: Maundy Thursday Foot Washing

Lent is a time when God works on humility, and the Maundy Thursday foot washing service is a powerful Lenten teaching tool.

During TCC’s first Holy Week we held a foot washing service in the forum room at Bethel. We were still new to the liturgy and had not yet settled into the tradition of having priests, deacons, and altar servers acting “in persona Christi” for the foot washing. Instead, parishioners came up and had their feet washed, then stayed to wash the feet of others. I’d planned to participate in that act of service, and was fully intending to when the service began.

But while I waited and watched, the reality of my unworthiness to act in the role of Christ in such an intimate way was overwhelming. Who was I to mimic such a sublimely humble act? It was a struggle to force myself to get up and receive the sacramental action; participating beyond that was not imaginable.

There is something about the foot washing ceremony that is spiritually jarring. In it, transcendence and imminence overlap. Our God, the creator of the universe who stepped into time before presenting himself as the once and always sacrifice to Himself, picks up basin and cloth to wash the dust from our feet. Our feet; those blushingly intimate body parts which we prefer to keep under wraps. Our feet which collect the dirt and sweat and grime of the world.

Each year since that first service, I react the same way. I respond as Peter did, saying “No, you shall never wash my feet!”

I am unworthy even to be the woman crying tears over His feet, drying them with my hair and anointing them with expensive perfume, let alone receiving such attention.

So to think of Him washing my feet?

Each year, I anticipate and dread this wonderful, heart wrenching service. Each year I am overcome with tears. Each year I am profoundly moved.

If you haven’t come to a foot washing service before, please try to come this year. In this humble act God manifests the human character of His love for us, and its breadth. From creation itself, to foot washing—He loves us.


Pranayama mama said...

i'm definitely coming next year!

Mother Hubbard said...

Thank you Suzanne! Some of the most profoundly moving times I have had in church have been during Maundy Thursday foot washing. Last night was no exception!

Suzanne Marie DeWitt said...

It was for me as well Martha. And you were key to that. I'm in the process of writing about it, but it's a humbling task.

Johan Persyn said...

You read my thoughts. Feeling very moved about footwashing on maundy thursday. As my wife and I prepare the sermon your thoughts on it are very useful. Thanks

Suzanne Marie DeWitt said...

Thank you for leaving a comment Johan. I'm so glad that you found my thoughts useful. May your ministry during Holy Week be richly blessed.