Thursday, April 3, 2014
HOLY FEET BATMAN!
The Mandatum for Holy Thursday, which refers to the "washing of the feet" during the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper is an optional ritual. The priest can decide to have it or not.
Every year, certain liturgical types get all bent out of shape if their version of the Mandatum and their understanding of the rubrics isn't followed explicitly.
As most of you know, I can see both sides of every issue.
Holy Thursday is the celebration of two sacraments that require, let me repeat, require each other. The first Sacrament Jesus' instituted on Holy Thursday is that of Holy Orders, the priesthood. Because through this Sacrament which Christ institutes, priests from that day forward will do what Jesus requires them to do when He institutes the second sacrament of Holy Thursday, the Most Holy Eucharist.
While Jesus certainly wants the Christian priesthood He institutes to be in continuity with the Old Testament version, He does not want the Sacrament of Holy Orders to be only about worship and ritual purity. He wants His new order of priesthood to be of service to the needy, the disenfranchised, those who live on the margins of society, what Pope Francis calls the periphery.
So as High Priest and example to all in Holy Orders, Jesus shows not only the early ritual of the Holy Eucharist but also the aspect of service symbolized by Him washing the feet of the apostles. They are to do the same for those they will shepherd.
The optional ritual of washing feet on Holy Thursday can be approached in two ways.
First it could be celebrated in a literal way as Jesus does at the Last Supper with the bishop/priest washing the feet of 12 other priests. In local parishes, where it is impossible to find 12 priests or transitional deacons, altar boys have substituted. In recent times twelve lay men who have no intention of becoming priests are chosen.
This is perfectly legitimate and ties in well with the literal theme of the Liturgy and the reenactment of what Jesus actually did at the Last Supper for His twelve Apostles.
Or the other aspect of the Washing of the Feet by Jesus could be celebrated, that all followers of Christ by virtue of the universal priesthood of the laity are called to go and wash feet as a symbol of their service to the needy, whether the need be spiritual or material.
In this case, the priest would wash the feet of men and women, boys and girls as a sign of the Church washing the feet of all, no matter their religion or gender. This is what Pope Francis did last year and the power of his symbol in washing the feet of two Muslim women in addition to the others. It was a sign of what Pope Francis understand his new ministry as the Bishop of Rome to be, to be a servant to those in need. All bishops, priests and deacons are suppose to do that! The laity are too!
Many places have the bishop or priest washing the feet of men and women, usually Catholic men and women. Fewer now wash the feet of altar boys. Even fewer wash only the feet of all priests, transitional deacons or seminarians.
It can be diverse in the manner in which it is ritualized. It is optional. But no matter how it is done, the first priority is to remind those in Holy Orders that worship and service go hand-in-hand. The celebration of the Sacraments and the Word of God is to be coupled with service to those in need.
The other priority is to show all the baptized that faith and good works go hand-in-hand. Catholicism must go to the periphery and serve the needs of all.The Catholic identity of both clergy and laity is to be brought to the public square and not locked up behind the doors of the Church and kept in the Holy of Holies of the sanctuary!