Sacred Washing of Feet

A few years ago, I washed and wiped the feet of the people who came forward for the ritual of foot washing on Holy Thursday. Feet of various sizes were offered for my care: long, short, narrow, and wide. An elderly man’s right big toe was severely cracked and crooked. For several people, calluses on and under the feet, corns on toes, discoloration, and deformation signaled that these feet walked with pain and inhibited movement. At times, the feet presented themselves as pedicured and apparently healthy and pain-free. Each foot was unique; each came with its own history. Each foot was sacred.

These feet have moved daily along their paths that have been rocky, spacious, narrow, muddy, steep, level. Along the way, their owners have served people in need by feeding, clothing, housing, educating and helping them gain meaning in their lives. They have taken stands with legislators calling for justice in practices of care. They have listened to hearts opening to them and soothed wounds that called for healing. They gave their love with costs such as empathy, time, money and energy. The people served usually had faces and names. They were not anonymous or a nebulous crowd. They were the people encountered along the everyday walk of life with family members, neighbors, themselves and those from the broader community.

As Lent moves on, we continue to receive opportunities to wash the feet of people around us with responses such as gratitude, humor, hope and respect, patience and joy, and sharing food, things, and our skills. Even with our own wounded feet and hands, we can serve. At times we are invited to give our hurting hearts and wounds to God and others for healing. We can be gracious receivers.

Easter will soon break into our lives and the entire Body of Christ. Together we walk toward Easter and its promise of new life. As we progress on this path, we can continue to serve—to wash each other’s feet.

Mary Reuter, OSB

Photo: Sister Susan Rudolph (left), prioress during Easter 2023, washes the foot of a guest. Taken by Sister Nancy Bauer.