Thursday, April 21, 2011
THE WASHING OF FEET, COULD THERE BE ANYTHING CONTROVERSIAL ABOUT THAT?
Holy Thursday celebrates two sacraments of the Catholic Church, Holy Orders and The Most Holy Eucharist. Traditionally the Chrism Mass is celebrated the morning of Holy Thursday. At this Mass, the three oils that are used in service of the Liturgy, the Oil of Catechumens (for those preparing for Holy Baptism), The Oil of the Sick (for those who are seriously ill, injured or dying), and the Oil of Chrism (consecrated rather then bless and used for Holy Baptism, Confirmation, Anointing a newly ordained priest's hands and anointing a newly ordained bishop as well as anointing the altar and church at their consecration)are blessed/consecrated by the bishop.
Then the priests of the diocese renew their priestly promises to serve as ordained priests.
On Holy Thursday, the night before our Savior died, he commissioned the apostles, the first "high priests" of the Church (bishops) to act in the "Person of Christ" to remember the Lord's Passion on Good Friday through the Sacrificial Meal of Holy Thursday. Implicit in this commission is "ordination" if you will, no matter how implicit it is.
The priest therefore acts as Christ especially at the consecration of the elements of bread and wine during Mass. But also, in a sacramental way, the male priest shows forth Jesus Christ who is the Bridegroom of the Church, with the Church as His holy and spotless bride. The Most Holy Eucharist with Christ sacramentally present in the Priest shows forth the wedding banquet of the Lamb made explicit in the Book of Revelation.
I think most people who understand the "sacramental principle" of the Catholic Church realize that the elements used in the sacraments must point to what is hidden or veiled in a credible way.
For example,a woman cannot be a sacramental sign in a credible way of the masculinity of Christ the Bridegroom which is shown forth in a sacramental way in Holy Orders.
The same is true for the Most Holy Eucharist. Pizza and beer while resembling food and drink do not capture the sacramental essence of Bread and Wine which point to Christ Who is the Bread of Life, Whose sacrifice on the Cross pours out His blood to save mankind. You might co-op the sacrament of the Mass by using pizza and beer, but only to its diminishment sacramentally.
The same is true for Holy Baptism, water, not milk or sand or coke or anything else has the same sacramental qualities that point to Christ, the living Water who rescues us from the waters of turbulence and death through our baptism.
Gasoline is not a good substitute for oil for any of the sacramental oils, it doesn't have the same sacramental characteristics that point to Jesus, healing balm, strengthening ointment, penetrating chrism.
So at St. Joseph Church we select only 12 men to have their feet washed, symbolic of the 12 apostles, the first "high priests" of the Church who point to Jesus Christ, "The High Priest". How can this decision which follows the rubrics of the Roman Missal be construed as "controversial" by Catholics who should know better?
We also realize that this foot washing which is optional is only symbolic of what Christ did prior to celebrating the Last Supper. He was teaching these "New Testament and therefore Christian priests" that unlike the priesthood of the Jews or even of the pagans of that region, their priesthood was not to be merely cultic or temple oriented but one of service to the "unclean." That would have been unheard of for the caste system of the priesthood of the Jewish Temple. Remember the Jewish priest that refused to help the man on the side of the road. He didn't help him out of fear of becoming "unclean" himself for doing so. His duty was merely cultic, not one of service. Jesus teaches implicitly and explicitly that it cannot be that way for the Catholic or Christian deacon, priest or bishop.
In many Catholic Churches tonight, everyone will wash or have their foot washed by someone. This sort of liturgical literalism which came in vogue in the Church in the 1970's is precisely that literalism carried to an extreme. It does not capture the essence of Holy Thursday one bit in the Catholic understanding of what Holy Thursday is. If you want a gimmick to capture the priesthood of the laity then wash feet on Easter Sunday rather than sprinkle them with Holy Water!
Holy Thursday is about the ordained priesthood and the Most Holy Eucharist.
The Great Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday is about the Baptized, Confirmed and Holy Eucharist sharing Catholic people. This is the day of the laity if you will. It is from them, a priestly people, that the cultic or sacramental priests will emerge and be called to show forth the masculinity of Christ who saves us on many different levels. Let's keep our days straight. Without ministerial, ordained priests there would be no Eucharist and there would be no Catholic Church.