Saturday, March 30, 2013
No Feet instead an offering for the poor
I used to wash the feet of women because I merely saw it as a sign of service and then the Holy See clarified the theology of it and issued its decree that only the feet of men should be washed, as it was a sign of Christ serving the disciples (really the Apostles). It is a sign about the Church and Christ's service of it, rather than a general sign of charity, it is very much a sign ad intra rather than ad extra. From a Russian friend I understand the Patriarch of Moscow washes the feet of twelve Moscow bishops, which seems entirely appropriate, the Apostles were after all bishops. It was also appropriate that formally the Bishop of Rome should wash the feet of twelve priests of his diocese.
In my mothers homeland, that bit of Northern Italy that became the Yugoslavia, it was the custom of my grandfather, and the heads of most households, to wash the feet of his family and farm workers, the practice I understand continued even under Tito's Communism. In England before the Reformation the monarch used to wash the feet of the poor, and in at least one Benedictine Abbey I know Mother Abbess washes the feet of the whole community in the Chapter house, in the Liturgy the chants are sung but the priest washes no-one's feet. Formerly it seems it was a ritual for those in authority to exercise with their subordinates.
This year I have found bending, even walking rather painful, it is passing now but Wednesday I had to use a stick just to walk into Church, so as it was physical painful and difficult to do, but also because of doubt about the Law raised by the Pope, frankly I just didn't want the hassle I had trying to get people to accept the change in the Law, especially as most of the local brethren do any feet available. So I decided that as it was optional we would opt not to wash feet. I never have a list and just invite men to occupy the 12 seats put out by the servers. It is the first time I haven't done it.
As the choir had prepared the Mandatum, and as I stress the 3 collections of the Triduum, for the poor, the Holy Places and on Easter Day for the clergy, in our diocese it is an important part of the PPs income, so I asked the servers to place the bowl and towel before the sanctuary and invited people to come up and place their offering in the bowl. The money was for the poor, we will give it to the local Coptic Church as a fraternal act, to be used to help the Christian refugees from Egypt, recently 250 families have arrived in Brighton fleeing for fear of their lives.
Afterwards someone said it was a little more "meaningful" seeing a bowl full of notes, a sign of the effective charity from the community for members of our extended community.
Posted by Fr Ray Blake