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The washing of the feet: A lesson in humility

WASHING OF THE FEET. Historically a slave’s duty, now an act of humility (Photo from, Philippines – Tonight, April 5, in Maundy Thursday Catholic masses, shortly before the Holy Communion, churchgoers will witness priests washing the feet of 12 persons, dressed like the apostles in the Bible. The ceremony is also observed in the respective religious services of eastern Orthodox churches, Anglican churches, and some Protestant denominations.The religious ritual was inspired by a biblical account of that fateful night before Jesus Christ’s passion, crucifixion, and death.John, one of the apostles, described in the 13th chapter (verses 1-17 of his gospel), Jesus Christ’s rare act of washing the feet of his disciples during dinner, now known as the Last Supper. ”The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him,” a passage from the chapter goes.A slave’s dutyHistorically, the feet-washing was a common practice in Eastern countries because people wore sandals and walked on dusty roads.There are biblical allusions to the practice of feet-washing. In the Old Testament, the act was described as a lowly service as it was performed by slaves on guests especially in well-off households. That is why the disciples were surprised by the humble gesture of their preacher, prompting apostle Peter to protest, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Peter asked, to which Jesus Christ replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”“No, you shall never wash my feet,” Peter protested. Jesus Christ answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”JESUS CHRIST’S DEATH. The apex of love and service.A lesson in humilityThe biblical story of the feet-washing ceremony is mainly interpreted as an act of humility, a recurring message in the observance of the Holy Week. ”My dear brothers and sisters, hope that the celebration of the Holy Week this year may instill in us the servanthood of Christ that will save our country. We need the spirit of servanthood, we suffer a lot because of those who refuse to serve and who make themselves more important than the country and the rest of humanity,” Manila Archbishop Luis Tagle said in his Lenten message.  ”The economy, politics, society, culture suffer because of people who put more importance on themselves and who eventually serve their interest rather than serving others,” Tagle added.Tagle reiterated the Church’s Holy Week message in his Maundy Thursday night homily. Focusing on the themes of love and service, Tagle stressed that “it is genuine service that will save our country.”Tagle stressed that “True love serves, true service is rooted in love.”Jesus Christ’s death on the cross was his donation of his life,” Tagle reminded churchgoers, adding that it was “the apex of love and service.”HOLY MASS. The religious service observed by Catholics is inspired by the Last SupperMeaning of Maundy ThursdayTagle also explained the importance of the Last Supper, reminding churchgoers that “He (Jesus Christ) did not only give bread and wine. He washed his disciples’ feet.” ”The night of betrayal became the dawn of self-giving,” Tagle added.The gospel read during the mass, the basis of Tagle’s homily, retold John’s account of the Last Supper, the precursor of today’s “holy mass.”It was during the Last Supper when Jesus Christ gave a new “commandment” to his disciples: “A new commandment give I unto you, that you love one another, as I have loved you,” John wrote towards the latter part of chapter 13 of his gospel. Maundy Thursday is particularly inspired by the verse. The word “maundy” is derived from the Latin word “mandatum” which literally means “command.”The Christian world, including the Philippines, a Catholic-dominated country, is observing the Lenten season. The week-long religious observance started on Palm Sunday, April 1, and will culminate on Easter Sunday, April 8, the commemoration of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. –

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