Many Christian traditions observe an important ritual on Holy Thursday, also called Maundy Thursday: the rite of foot washing. In the church of my upbringing, we formed lines in front of empty bowls and pitchers of water. We knelt to wash each others’ feet; then sat to have our own feet washed by the next person in line.
It was the one day of the year in which faith made sense to me. Without fail, I would understand that theology is about life, that faith forms us to endure and shape a brutal world.
Feet washing is a practice in humility, a tradition in inversion. The first becomes last, the last becomes first. The leader becomes the servant because the hierarchies never mattered anyway. The practice reveals the character of Christian love.
Jack and I had planned to be with my family for Easter. We had planned to visit England and Scotland in March and fly back to LA through Ohio. Those plans feel like a dream I can’t remember all the details of. Having to practice Holy Thursday at home, however, reminds me of how drastically our lifestyles have changed.
Although I will miss the music, the incense, the fleeting sense of community, the gold thread lit by candlelight, we will kneel to wash each others’ feet, as a reminder of how to love each other well, as a reminder of how to serve the world well.
Holy Thursday services conclude in silence. Congregants are invited into another part of the church to sit in silence, prayer, and symbolic vigil with Christ. We will be doing that, too. Contemplating how God, suffering, pain, love, redemption, death, birth, sacrifice, loss, and hope are all wrapped up together, all the time.