On Thursday night many of our community gathered to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. It was a beautiful celebration and it reflects that joy and sorrow are intertwined like the strands that make up a piece of thread.
Before our sadness we do celebrate and this meal represents the bounty of the Lord, the goodness and the nourishment of the Lord. We remember that we must bring gifts to God and those simple gifts of bread and wine are transformed, out of His suffering, into our Sacred Banquet.
This is also the mass where feet are washed, as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The washing of feet is a rather intimate act. I got to find this out as I had my own feet washed by another. It was challenging and uncomfortable; faith is like that in my experience. I must be called to come up against what makes me feel ill at ease.
What was harder… Not being sure of when to get up to go to the seat the Father Butler had pointed out to me earlier. Getting up and feeling awkward as I made my way to that chair. Sitting facing backwards. I couldn’t look up and allow myself to make eye contact with anyone, which is very strange for me.
Or was it when Deacon Gene Kelenski bent down before me and I removed my sock reluctantly. As I held back I knew that I had to stop thinking about Gene and to start thinking about Christ. That I can tell you is easier said than done. Gene had to move my foot over the bowl; it did not want to go there of its own volition, which is of course my volition.
Then the warm water cascades over what I think to be my very ugly foot. I am reminding myself that such self-criticism is redolent with narcissiscm, but that is another story for another day. What I should remind myself is to get out of my own way.
After the water, the gentle touch of my feet being dried off, which really makes me want to leap up and run away. No, I just continue to sit there feeling uncomfortable and maybe even a little angry. And wishing I felt otherwise.
Oh no! Not the other foot too! Yes. The other foot. Lather, rinse, repeat as the saying goes. Deep sigh. What was I thinking when I volunteered to do this?
Enough of my self-indulgent ramblings. I only say all this because I think there is something for all of us to work out in community about serving and being served.
I will say this- doing the serving is the easy part in many ways. Until I peel the onion a bit to find my pride. The being served is the perfect albeit uncomfortable counterbalance to the whole thing.
This leads me to think that I must pray with the image of Jesus washing my feet more often and me finding something to hold onto there, rather than to shirk away from. So much for metanoia, I think.
We are all Peters in some way are we not. Here are some words by Jean Vanier from something called “Not Optional” on this topic.
We have difficulty recognizing this kingdom of God because it is so small and hidden, like treasure hidden in a field. We human beings are so attracted by power and glory that frequently we do not see it, or want to see it. In order to show the radical newness of life in his kingdom, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. This shocks and scandalizes them…. But it’s as if Jesus is trying to say: ‘Yes, this is the way to love in my kingdom.’ That is why to have one’s feet washed by Jesus is not something optional, but a vital, necessary part of discipleship. It means entering into a whole new world. -Jean Vanier, The Scandal of Service: Jesus Washes Our Feet
The service ends some time later, we stream out and head to the chapel, to the Repository. Can we keep watch with the Lord? I am reminded of my own visit to the real Gethsemane and the power of that place; I am further reminded of the many Gethsemanes that pop up and that are easily and frequently slumbered through.
I became enveloped in the dark silence of the chapel and the container it provided for my prayer. My prayer finally gave way- the first time in a very long time to some kind of deeper surrender. Silence, when I allow it to do so, is a form of ecstasy for me and I do use that word rather purposefully even if it is uncomfortably.
Then – Compline or Night Prayer. Someone lead the prayer and she sang so richly, so beautifully… Pane Lingua, the words in Latin so comforting to me. I am reminded of the long tradition of our church and how that with all its woes, there are so many gifts.
May this Triduum bring us all closer to God by being brought closer to one another. Let us pray for the world at large and for our community here, including and especially our newest members.
At the Easter Vigil, they will be fully entered into our community and to the Catholic Church. Please keep them in your prayers and welcome them with an open and loving heart.