Thursday, March 20, 2008

Maundy or Holy Thursday

What does that mean? Maundy is from the Latin word "mandatum" which means "commandment" and is from the gospel of John - "a new commandment i give you, that you love one another, as I have loved you". So we have the Last Supper and Jesus washing the feet of those He loved. I've come across several pictures of foot washing that bring forth various emotions - this one shows gentleness in the hands that lovingly caress the feet of a disciple. We don't see their faces so we can't tell if the one on the receiving end is feeling awkward, or uncomfortable.

But this one by Ford Madox Brown (1852-56) "Jesus Washing Peter's Feet" is definitely more realistic. Peter has given his arguments - "You will never wash my feet!" and Jesus has replied "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me". And look at everyone else around the table. there are looks of anxiety, curiosity, concern, and surprise & the man on the left is unbuckling his sandal, eager to be next. Could that be Judas? i see what looks like a bag of money next to him on the table? what do you see?


Margaret D. McGee said...

This is a wonderful painting. I especially love how Jesus looks like a servant, from his bent head to his rough clothes and bare arms.

You know, throughout the story of the foot washing, I can’t help but empathize with Peter. There’s no doubt that he loves Jesus. And yet, he seems caught in a kind of hero worship that prevents him from seeing Jesus as he really is and entering into the relationship that Jesus wants to have.

Which is how hero worship works, at least for me. Someone comes into my life who is so wonderful, and who teaches me just what I need right then. Someone who seems to know everything and is always right. If I’m lucky, that person might turn into a real friend. But first, I have to give up my fantasies about the two of us. Fantasies that make it very hard to see and relate to the other person’s true self, and that turn out to be mostly just a reflection of my own fears, hopes, and self-doubts.

The road from blind hero worship to authentic love can be bumpy, and Peter lurches over some of those bumps on his way to getting his feet washed. From the example that Jesus sets, that love exists in a world in which the Lord of the All Hosts and the lowliest slave are one and the same.

So, if I bring Jesus’ example into my own world, into the physical or social space where I like to imagine that I am Mistress, that would mean greeting every guest and every encounter not as if I were in charge, but as if I were a servant in a household that belongs to Another.

And when I’m a guest in someone else’s world, I’m to let that person serve me, even to the extent of washing my dirty feet.

That might take some practice.

Anonymous said...

I see despair on some faces and I see tears on one face, with a compatriot (or perhaps a brother) consoling, with an arm around his shoulders.

I also see that Jesus did not have his robe tucked into his waistband as it said in at least one gospel. I also see the long haired Jesus and according to what I have read, that would not have been the case as Jesus was a Nazarene, not a Nazarite.

Mostly, I see a young man doing a loving, servant's job and I see hard headed Peter with his hands folded, accepting what he does not wish. Another act of love.

Blessed Maundy Thursday, looking forward to Good Friday with sadness, but to Easter Sunday with profound gratitude.