This is My Body
Footwashing as a Primary Ritual of Christianity
by Jay McDaniel
Pope washes feet of young Muslim woman prisoner in unprecedented twist on Maundy Thursday
Pope Francis continued his gleeful abandonment of tradition by washing the feet of a young Muslim women prisoner in an unprecedented twist on the Holy Thursday tradition.
“There is no better way to show his service for the smallest, for the least fortunate,” said Gaetano Greco, a local chaplain.
Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 inmates aged 14 to 21, among them the two women, the second of whom was an Italian Catholic. Mr Greco said he hoped the ritual would be “a positive sign in their lives”...more
This is My Body
Now this is interfaith dialogue at its best. It's more than dialogue. It's mutual transformation. Thank you, Pope Francis.
I know that the Pope is not an authority on all matters of the flesh. But in seeing the photograph on the left I can't help but wonder if there's not a little divinity in the activity. If divinity has anything to do with holy communion -- that is, with bonds of love and reconciliation -- then surely, in the kiss itself, and in what it meant to him and to the women, there was something holy on both sides.
I wonder what the young Muslim woman woman felt when he washed and kissed her feet. I wonder what he felt, too. In this moment he gave her something of his own body and she gave him something of her own, too. Both of them were saying: "This is my body, given for you."
This is the way it always is. When we give our bodies in gentle and caring ways, we give something of our souls. After all, souls and feelings and bodies are not so separate. Our souls are filled with feeling and our feelings are expressed through bodies.
Some people think only physical ligaments along are connective tissue. This is not true, Feelings are connective tissue, too, linking body and soul. When we say "This is my body" in tender ways, we are also saying "This is my soul." The feelings linking body and soul are spiritual ligaments.
In process theology God is the loving ligament of the whole universe, whose spirit is found in the ligaments of our own love for each other. When we are called by feelings deep within us to love others, to extend hospitality to them, to serve them, we are feeling God's feelings, God's kiss. These feelings are the beckoning, the petitions, the prayers, of God within our own hearts. They are feelings to love other and to be loved by them. To wash feet and to have your feet washed.
Often it is harder to receive love than to give it. Maybe some of the women in the prison felt a little embarrassed to be receiving a kiss from the Pope. I know people who can love others easily, but who won't let themselves be loved. Maybe you do, too?
In any case, when we really care for others in loving ways, and allow ourselves to be cared for, too, we are hearing the voice and breath of God, saying: "This love is my Body, given for you." God's Spirit are the felt beckonings within our own hearts, calling us into openness and vulnerability.
When the Pope washed the feet of the women, God was incarnate in the stretch of their legs and the movement of his hands. Of course God transcends it all, too. The Soul of the universe, who loves each creature with tender care, is not reducible to any one kiss or even to all of them added together. The Kiss is more than any kiss. The Washing more than the washing. God is transcendent.
But we, flesh and blood, feet and lips, can be ambassadors for transcendent Kiss. And when this happens we hear a voice somewhere saying "Take, touch, this is my body, given for you." It is a holy communion as nourishing and poignant, as touching, as any bread and wine.
I have a friend who is a Christian minister, and he believes that the ritual of footwashing is the only one Jesus really commanded. He thinks Jesus would be surprised to know that we replaced feet and water with bread and wine. He thinks every act of worship should include footwashing. This ritual would help us remember that we are bound together in love, one footstep at a time.