From my good friend Gene Packwood’s blog on the meaning of tonight for Christians:
Foot washing can be a challenge for those who are not used to it—all a bit too up close and a little creepy. Eleven years ago a woman wrote me the following note after Maundy Thursday worship and her first experience of foot washing:
Lent is one of the Church seasons when I quietly reflect on Jesus’ journey to the cross and his crucifixion. Maundy Thursday seems to me to be almost as sorrowful a day as Good Friday. The foot-washing ceremony is something I never took part in. This year as Maundy Thursday approached several of my friends told me what a powerful service they thought the foot-washing was.
After a day and night of prayer and meditation, I realized that pride had kept me from the foot washing. Because of my hammer toes and rotten looking feet, I had never wanted anyone to see them.
At the Maundy Thursday service, I was still ambivalent about having my feet washed. Images of Jesus washing his disciples feet flooded my thoughts and I said to myself, “Do it.”
As my feet were being washed, a feeling of great humility came over me. As they were being dried, I felt a great desire to wash another’s feet. While doing so, I was filled with ecstasy and great emotion. I felt myself to be in a more spiritual realm. My soul was filled with wonderment and love. I was at the foot of the cross; a more fervent believer than ever before.
Why was this experience so powerfully moving for this dear saint? When words aren’t enough, we perform rituals. A good ritual says something more than mere words can say. That’s what rituals are for. So we take a tuna casserole over when someone has had a loved one die. We give an aching spouse a back-rub. And we wash feet. Not because the feet need cleaning, but because our souls do. And we go the altar to eat little wafers and take tiny sips of wine, not because our bodies need them for sustenance, but because our souls do.
Nonetheless—All may, none must, some should.