Tonight is Maundy Thursday- one of the holiest nights of the year for me. This is the night in the Christian tradition that commemorates the Last Supper, and emphasizes the twin themes of love and humility in the simple act of footwashing that will happen in churches across the world. There was something so utterly shocking about this act of Jesus that it horrified his disciples, and it often shocks and repels newcomers to the ceremony as well. Take off my shoes and have a stranger wash my feet? You've got to be kidding. It is so unconventional- so radical. So vulnerable.
Our feet are usually not our prettiest parts-quite the opposite. By midlife, the toes are often twisted and knobby, the skin hard and calloused, the nails cracked and growing yellow with age and they are hardly the part of us that smells the sweetest . I have yet to meet anyone over forty who is really proud of their feet, unless they have spent a lot of time and money with a pedicurist.
But that is exactly the part that Jesus wanted to touch, to wash, to tend to. The dry, cracked, twisted and calloused parts, the place where we connect with the earth, the part of us that moves us through the world, the part of ourselves we are apt to ignore, despise or abuse. What a metaphor.
The word "maundy" comes from "mandatum", mandate, evoking the moment when Christ says to his disciples, " I give you a new commandment- love one another as I have loved you"- and then he blesses them as servants no longer, but friends. Maundy Thursday invites us to step into Jesus' role- to welcome the dry, dirty and unloved parts of one another. To bathe them and cherish them and lavish attention on one another , and by extension, to welcome the forlorn, abused and neglected parts of ourselves to the feast as well.
What a visceral way to demonstrate a love for humanity in all its messiness- and what a profound way to say goodbye to your friends, and to the world.
Last year during the Holy week services here at Bishop's Ranch, my friend Roger Housden read some selections from his book "Ten Poems to Say Goodbye". They are a perfect complement to the pathos of this week. Whether you are grieving the loss of someone dear to you or simply commemorating this sacred season of saying goodbye, I can't recommend the book enough. It might help you hold your own broken pieces with more tenderness and compassion. It might help you befriend the world.
You can follow this link to find out more and see a preview:
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