the footwashing

We are growing everyday in what it means to do the footwashing.

A friend shared these words from Abbot John Klassen at Saint John’s Abbey, drawn from a homily he gave on Holy Thursday a few years back. Today these words came back to me as I thought about what we celebrate at the start of the Triduum.

All day long the Abbot’s words echoed in my head, as I worked and wrote. As I cooked and cleaned. As I played with the baby, changed his diapers, fed him meals, read him stories. As I prayed at Mass.

We are growing everyday in what it means to do the footwashing.

Tonight I watched our pastor, priest, and deacon bend over bowls. I watched them pour warm water from clay jugs over small feet, old feet, clean feet, bandaged feet. I watched them dry with a fresh white towel, then look up at the face of the person whose foot they had washed. I watched the humble exchange of emotions: gratitude, humility, embarrassment, relief, compassion.

We are growing everyday in what it means to do the footwashing.

I thought about my work as mother, my vocation as spouse. I realized, as the Abbot’s words poured over my thoughts like warm water from those clay jugs, that I, too, am growing everyday in what it means to do the footwashing.

Some days I think I know what it means to serve: to care for my son, to love my husband, to carry this new baby. But many days I have no clue. So I try to keep going when I struggle, when I fail. I hope that is what helps me to grow, step by step, day by day, in what it means to do the footwashing.

Sometimes footwashing means letting a feverish, sobbing toddler hiccup himself to sleep in your aching arms. Sometimes footwashing means holding down the fort at home for weeks while your husband travels for work. Sometimes footwashing means feeling nauseous for the better part of a year while a new life grows within you.

But regardless, footwashing means humility. Self-gift. The messy work of love.

As I leave for the rest of Triduum, I think of all of us who are washing feet. Parents, spouses, caretakers. Friends, sons, daughters. Ministers, teachers, healers. We are growing everyday in what it means to do the footwashing. 

I pray that we find strength in a God of such humility and love that he knelt to wash the dirty feet of a friend who would betray him.

I pray that we help each other through the dark times, the difficult days, the threats of despair.

I pray that the next days’ journey through death to new life reminds all of us what service and sacrifice and salvation look like.

I pray that we keep growing in what it means to do the footwashing.

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10 Comments

  1. Liz on 22 April 2011 at 8:04 am

    My friend who pastors a church mostly made up of Jamaican and Nigerian immigrants says she often hears the adage that in pregnancy and childbirth: “You go down to hell and wrestle with death, and come out with new life.” Very Christ-like indeed.

    • Elaine on 22 April 2011 at 1:29 pm

      This speaks exactly to my fears of having a second child, esp the part of enduring another pregnancy while having a toddler. Thanks Liz for sharing your friend’s blog, and thanks to this wonderful mother and her wonderful writing for sharing her thoughts with the rest of us. I also am loving your Holy Week ideas. I look forward to following your journey.

    • LKF on 25 April 2011 at 7:10 am

      I love this quote, Liz. It bounced around in my head all weekend, and I think it will be one of those things I bring with me to childbirth this time around. That’s one hell (<– pun intended) of a strong statement about what it takes to carry and birth a child. Thanks.

  2. Ginny Kubitz Moyer on 22 April 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Beautifully said. I love having a God who washes feet. I also love how you point out that Jesus washed Judas’ feet, too … truly amazing.

    And the photo made me smile. 🙂

    • LKF on 25 April 2011 at 7:50 am

      I think the irresistibility of newborn feet is part of God’s plan for babies’ cuteness to help them survive their parents’ delirium of those first exhausting months.
      Or at least I thought so as I steathily cropped my sleep-deprived, baggy-eyed face out of the background of that shot. 😉

  3. Lauren on 29 April 2011 at 2:51 pm

    Amen! Amen! Amen!

    Beautiful words. That sentence from the abbot frequently comes to my mind at random times. This was the first Holy Thursday in a long time that I didn’t go to Mass. I missed it quite a bit because the reminder to wash feet, to love, is so incredibly important. Yes, every liturgy does this to a certain extent, but I find Holy Thursday to be a particularly concentrated liturgy of service and love.

    May we continue to grow…

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