Thursday, April 13, 2006

Holy Thursday

Having not done much introspection during Lent, I've decided to take the next few days to do so. If you hate reading about anything religious, please come back on Monday when I will likely have this all out of my system by then. :)

This evening we celebrate the Last Supper. Which, incidently, was a Passover meal (happy Passover to Jews everywhere, I hope you had a wonderful Seder last night!), Jesus having come to Jerusalem for Passover. At the Last Supper, Jesus washed the disciples feet. This was to symbolize that he was their servant. Therefore, Mass tonight will have some foot washing component. In large parishes, perhaps the priest might symbolically wash the feet of a few people. Or maybe they will have the catechumens (those adults who are entering the Church at Easter Vigil) wash the feet of their sponsors. In other parishes, a few of the Church leaders will wash the feet of the entire congregation. I've been to services where everyone participates in foot washing--you wash the feet of the person in line before you, then sit down to have your feet washed by the person in line behind you. This is symbolic washing, by the way, just holding your foot over a basin, having a little water poured on it, then having it toweled off.

Symbolic or no, I don't like it. More because I have issues with strangers touching me than because I don't want to pour water on someone's feet. And I feel self-concious about my feet in particular. And they are ticklish. Perhaps if I had gone to this Mass as child, I wouldn't have a problem with it as an adult because it would just be The Way It Is, but alas, I am neurotic about it.

I wonder how the disciples handled it? I am thinking what it would be like if I went to dinner at my advisor's house and suddenly, he says he's going to wash our feet? I can picture me and my lab mates all looking at each other like, "What the hell is he thinking?" and in the meantime saying things like, "That's okay, B--you know what, I just washed my feet before I left the house; if I had known beforehand, well, anyway it's perfectly okay, I get what you're saying, I understand, no need to go overboard here." To my recollection, there's no account of what the desciples thought about the whole thing.*

Of course, the evening ends with Jesus being betrayed by Judas (that's where the term betrayed by a kiss comes from--Judas tells the authorities that the man that he embraces is the one) and hauled off to jail. So, after the foot washing and communion, the altar is stripped in preparation for Good Friday. Every bit of ornamentation is removed (Protestants might say ornamentation is from the devil anyway, but we're not going to go into that here)--everything. I've seen parishes remove the altar table itself! The blessed Eucharist (which Catholics believe is the actual body of Christ, also a topic of discussion for another day) is removed from the tabernacle (a little house where it is usually kept) and placed in the "altar of repose" which is usually some side chapel--not part of the main church. There is usually time for adoration of the blessed sacrament, perhaps even for the entire night (I know that might sound a little pagan, but since the sacrament is Christ, it is actually adoration of Christ). The altar is left bare and empty, ready for Good Friday services which usually features a very large cross.

I have not yet decided if I'm going to go to Mass this evening. It depends on how I feel about the foot washing and how guilty I feel about not going.

Oh, right, knitting. I finished the heels on both of my sockpal socks and have actually put both socks on the singular circular needle and am knitting them at the same time. It's a little complicated, but I can manage.

*The Bible often leaves out potentially interesting bits of conversation. For instance, in the story of Abraham and Isaac, it says that Abraham brought his son to the place of sacrifice and then tied him up and was about to kill him when God stopped him. But you don't get to hear the story from Isaac's perspective. Did Abraham have to chase him around a bit before being able to tie him up and put him on the altar? "Father, why are you tying me up? Father, what are you doing with that big knife? Father, are you out of your mind???? Hey! Help! My father's trying to kill me!"

1 comment:

  1. Whatever one might think of the Bible, it's a pretty lousy narrative. Yeah, I know...that's not what it's supposed to be, but still. That's why I loooove books that try to inject some of that day-to-day real-world story into the events in the Bible. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant) is one of my favorite books for just this reason.