While I’m blogging (I should be singing alleluias at this time of Easter Eve rather than sitting in front of this infernal machine), I have been reflecting on the Footwashing.
At my wife’s Lutheran parish, they had the footwashing this year. The two pastors washed the feet of TWO people. Yes, that’s right. One each. When I objected that this was a bit skimpy, my wife said: “It doesn’t matter how many–it was symbolic.” Symbolic? Of what? Didn’t Jesus wash the feet of TWELVE apostles? How symbolic is it to wash the feet of just TWO?
Then I recall that when I was a Lutheran pastor, I used to wash the feet of the entire congregation on my own. The congregation in attendance was rarely more than 40, and it took a bit of time–but I guess that was “symbolic” too–of the pastor’s servanthood towards his people. Of course, now I have Holy Mother Church to correct me and I understand that the “symbol” was meant to be a bit more than that.
But even in the Catholic Church things are not “perfect”. Yes, a basic knowledge of Latin will lead one to understand that “viri selecti” means “selected MEN”. Nevertheless, women continue to be included in the Holy Thursday ceremony in the majority of places. Those priests who dare to follow the letter of the law will find themselves under constant pressure to default to the common practice.
Years ago I read of an American Catholic parish which decided that it would have all the members washing eachothers feet. They tried this one year and it was too difficult and complicated, so the next year they decided to simply have a “hand washing” where everyone got to wash eachother’s hands. Symbolic? Yes. Rather more of Pontius Pilate than of Jesus though.
My question is: If my wife is right, and the footwashing is just supposed to be symbolic, of what exactly is it supposed to be symbolic? And if it is to be symbolic of Jesus washing the feet of his apostles, doesn’t it make sense not to confuse this symbol, but to make it as clear as possible by having the pastor/priest wash the feet of TWELVE MEN?
Or is someone going to object now that we should go out and find 12 Jewish Fishermen to make it absolutely authentic?