Beloved People of St. Martin’s,
As I spoke about on Sunday, tonight we begin the three holiest nights of the Christian calendar, known as the “Triduum” in Latin. We will have services on each of the next three nights, and invite you to experience these liturgies as a way to draw deeper into your discipleship with Christ and with each other.
The combined narrative of these three days is filled with movement. We begin with Maundy Thursday’s foot-washing, and the stripping of the altar as we remember Jesus’s last meal with his disciples and the setting in motion of his betrayal. Good Friday recalls Jesus’s arrest and crucifixion, and reminds us of the deep symbolism of the cross in our lives as Christians. The Easter Vigil then describes the arc of salvation throughout scripture, and then offers us the first opportunity to proclaim the resurrection. Running through this narrative, pun intended, is a journey through our own devotional growth as disciples.
As we prepare for tonight’s Maundy Thursday service, I am reminded of the shock that many felt six years ago when Pope Francis washed the feet of twelve prisoners in Rome at a youth detention center. Not all of the young prisoners were Catholic, or even Christian; some were Muslim. Since the revival of the tradition in 1959, popes had usually washed only male feet, and usually Catholics—often other priests. However, St. John Paul II washed the feet of homeless boys, although he and his immediate successor later restricted the rite to priests. Pope Francis, staying true to his customs from before his papacy, reversed that policy and washed the feet of prisoners—yet in 2013, the shocking part was not the fact that he washed the feet of prisoners, but that two females were among the twelve, and that they had included non-Christians. Yet in responding to criticism about the symbolism of such perceived boundary-violations, Francis’s spokesman was clear that the point of the foot-washing ceremony was as an act of love and service to all.
In our rite tonight, those who wish may come forward and have their feet washed, and then if they wish they may wash others’ feet. In participating in this, we are reminded that Jesus calls us to model his acts of humble service in the world. Jesus models his own washing of the disciples’ feet as one that they are called to emulate both individually and as a mark of their community. How are each of us called to be a servant to others, and how is St. Martin’s called as a community of faithful people to serve those outside our boundaries? I invite you to start the journey with us tonight—and you could invite your family and friends, as well.
Come begin to explore this question with us tonight at 7 pm and throughout the rest of Holy Week to the glorious celebration of the Day of Resurrection on Sunday morning.