US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Holy foot washing Batman! Pope Francis is halfway there...

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

While reading a rather breathless story about how "traditionalists" are upset that Pope Francis washed and kissed the feet of two young women, one of whom (mon Dieu!) is Muslim, I came across this gem of journalistic liturgical interpretation: "The rite re-enacts Jesus' washing of the feet of his 12 apostles during the Last Supper before his crucifixion, a sign of his love and service to them." Is that what we do on Holy Thursday?

I ask because that bit of common interpretation does all kinds of weird things; identifies the pope (or the parish priest) with Jesus, and the 12 people who have their feet washed with the (only 12?) apostles, while the rest of us sit there and watch. If "re-enacting" is what the liturgy is about, then we need to be ordaining a whole lot more men so that there are enough priests to celebrate Eucharist every Sunday with 12 men (to re-enact the Last Supper), after which the priest will need to be crucified so that we can "re-enact" Jesus' crucifixion. 

The best Holy Thursday liturgies I've been to ditch the "re-enactment" of the Last Supper and its limited seating for what I think makes great sense: the whole assembly joining in this act of service, since we are all called to serve as Jesus did--in other words, we are all called by God to be "alter Christus/Christa" in the world. Liturgy, including the liturgies of the Triduum, are the ritual "practice" for what we're supposed to be about every day of our lives, the service and care of the world around us.

I'm glad Pope Francis took a step away from "re-enacting" the Last Supper toward "enacting" the service Jesus calls us to--what we ought to be practicing at every Sunday liturgy.