AUTHOR: Carolyn Savage | POSTED: April 21, 2011 | COMMENTS: 2 Comments
One of the most moving traditions that I experienced as a teacher in a Catholic school occurred every year on Holy Thursday. On Holy Thursday, our pastor would gather the entire school for a service that always concluded with the washing of the feet. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Catholic tradition of the washing of the feet, it stems from the biblical stories that recount the day before Jesus was crucified. It was on this day that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.
In Jesus’ time washing the feet of guests was normally done by the host or a servant. Before the last supper, Jesus humbled himself and did it for his disciples, showing them that “the greatest must become the least.” In doing so, Jesus was giving them a visual representation of His love. He even washed the feet of the man that was about to betray Him. This illustrates Jesus’ teaching of greatness to His disciples in Mark 10:43-45 (NKJ): “…. but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
As washing the feet of 900 students wasn’t practical, our pastor, Fr. Richard Wurzel, would choose twelve eighth grade boys to represent the disciples. At the conclusion of the prayer service, the boys, dressed in white server albs, would form a semi-circle on the altar. Fr. Wurzel would then take a basin of water, a clean towel for each boy, and wash their feet as the rest of the student body looked on. I’ll never forget the first time I watched him do this, admittedly wincing as our beloved and respected pastor gently washed the feet of some of the stinkiest boys I had ever known. (I was their 8th grade teacher and on a typical day after these mini-men had just played their version of the Superbowl on the playground, my room needed to be fumigated.) I couldn’t imagine washing their feet. But in that thought, existed the lesson.
When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples he was reminding us that it is our duty, while here are Earth, to humbly serve others…even those that betray us. He washed their feet to make his disciples remember–we are here to serve God and each other.
On this Holy Thursday, even though I am not witnessing a reenactment of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, I will remember the lesson he was teaching and try to symbolically wash the feet of as many as I can.