Mass of the Lord’s Supper
If I then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet.
Is it not ironic that the “normal” pattern of our worship this evening at the beginning of the great Easter Triduum would bring us to washing, not of hands, but of feet? It would see the presence of “chosen ones” or, far more likely, “volunteers,” basins, jugs of suitably warmed water, towels, extra chairs, priests removing chasubles and going down on their knees to wash feet.
All of this, of course, is in order to allow this visible scene to point to and reflect the unconditional love and service of the Lord. It should be the sign of a people united in proclaiming this truth and recognising what this call to service means in our Eucharistic community.
In the “new normal” of today, of course, we are brought before the tragedy of the locked doors of our churches; to the presence of just the one representative, the priest, offering Mass for God’s people, but without the presence and active participation of God’s holy people. So the mandatum, the washing of the feet, obviously will not take place this year.
The gospel of course will still be proclaimed and those words of Jesus retain their truth and their power “If I then, the Lord and master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet.
Just for a moment, allow yourself to let those words truly penetrate.
At the very same time as I will utter that gospel proclamation in our empty church this evening, those same words, thank God, will be incarnate in the lives and actions of so many who, consciously or not, will be imitating this supreme act of loving service of Christ the Lord.
At eight o’clock this Thursday evening, again we will witness the sight and the sound of applause ringing out the length and breath of our country – an applause which surely represents also a deep affirmation and true appreciation of service. The service of those who care for the sick and the dying: the service of those who risk their own health and indeed their own lives, to give to others. It is given, as people also recognise, not only in the hospitals and care homes, but is delivered also by our shelf stackers and our bus drivers, by our checkout assistants and our care workers, by our police officers and our ambulance crews – and by many more.
It is service that is on going and vital in so many ways, taking so many forms throughout the land; service that we are called to give, even in our own homes and to the people we live with. The service of those who look out for the needs of others; the service of those who carry out acts of kindness in a myriad of forms. Think of it and then hear the Lord’s words spoken to us again. You must wash each others’ feet. The washing of the feet may not be taking place in the Church tonight but it is certainly still taking place before us in many beautiful and precious ways
That it is recognised and appreciated for what it means and represents, is also surely a sign that people continue to know and believe that it is in this way that we are truly brought to life. It is in giving of ourselves that we receive, as St Francis tells us.
For us, as people of faith and trust in the presence of the Lord,
rejoice that we can recognise this service for what it truly is and let your inner voice quietly sing
Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
Where there is love and loving kindness, God is truly there.