Skip to main content


Holy Thursday: Take Up the Basin and Towel. Love is a Verb.

Foot washing is a symbolic action. It expresses what living a Eucharistic Life, a life of self emptying love in imitation of the Lord who emptied Himself for us, really looks like.

The Vigil Mass of Holy Thursday is meant to deepen our understanding of the self emptying of Jesus Christ. It is also meant to open up for us a deeper understanding of the meaning of our own lives. He, who is Lord and Master, King of Kings, took off His Cloak of Royal Splendor and became a Servant. He washed the feet of those whom He had chosen to continue His Redemptive work. He showed them what they were chosen to do and enlisted them to live lives of self emptying Love for the world. As we enter into the Triduum, the three days which is one great liturgical day, we can make this mystery our own. We are not spectators, we are to become participants. All who bear the name Christian are now called to pick up that basin and towel, to climb upon that Cross and live this way of Love in service.


CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - The Vigil Mass of Holy Thursday is meant to deepen our understanding of the self emptying of Jesus Christ. It is also meant to open up for us a deeper understanding of the meaning of our own lives.

We celebrate the gift of the ministerial priesthood which continues to make present the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. When our Priest stands at that altar, it is Jesus Christ in whom He stands. Jesus is the victim, the priest and the Holy Oblation.

At the Last Supper, Jesus anticipated the altar of the Cross at which He would willingly pour out the very last drop of His Blood so that we could be set free, to live free. St. Paul told the Galatians, \"For freedom Christ set us free.\" (Gal. 5:1)

We are set free in order to live differently because we are Christians. We are called to offer ourselves, in the Lord, for the sake of the World. When the Lord rose from that table, He showed us the naturally supernatural expression of Love; an expression that reveals the call of every Christian.

He, who is Lord and Master, King of Kings, took off His Cloak of Royal Splendor and became a Servant. He washed the feet of those whom He had chosen to continue His Redemptive work. He showed them what they were chosen to do and enlisted them to live lives of self emptying Love for the world.

To bear the name Christian is to walk in love in the midst of a broken and wounded world waiting to be reborn. This is the world which God still loves. It is being recreated anew as He continues His Mission through the Church, of which you and I are members.

The early Christians spoke of the Church as the world in the process of being transfigured. We are a part of that Communion, which brings heaven to earth and earth to heaven. Christian love is to be lived. That is what I mean by the expression, love is a verb. 

Our Priest will rise, and take the basin, towel and washcloth. The Love of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, is made into symbolic action, because Love is a verb.

Love is a command, a mandate. This foot-washing is more than a re-enactment of an actual historic event; it is an invitation to participate in the ongoing redemptive mission of Jesus Christ,lived through His Church.

Foot washing is a symbolic action. It expresses what living a Eucharistic Life, a life of self emptying love in imitation of the Lord who emptied Himself for us, really looks like.

It is referred to as the Mandatum, the Command, for good reason. A Christian who lives the love of Charity (Caritas), the Love of Jesus Christ, is to make Jesus Christ real in a real world. In so doing, the Incarnation continues.

In our participation in the Mysteries of these three Holy days, this one great liturgical day; we will encounter the Lord Himself. In that encounter He calls us to bear His name in the real world by more than a label. 

It helps to remember what names meant in the biblical sense. They communicated identity. Through God\'s grace we are made capable of becoming a manifestation of the self emptying Servant love of Jesus the Christ.

In his 2005 Encyclical letter entitled God is Love, Pope Emeritus Benedict wrote of the inner dynamic which happens when we participate in the Eucharist:

The Eucharist draws us into Jesus\' act of self-oblation. More than just statically receiving the incarnate Logos, we enter into the very dynamic of his self-giving. Union with Christ is also union with all those to whom he gives himself. I cannot possess Christ just for myself; I can belong to him only in union with all those who have become, or who will become, his own.

Communion draws me out of myself towards him, and thus also towards unity with all Christians. We become \"one body\", completely joined in a single existence. Love of God and love of neighbor are now truly united: God incarnate draws us all to himself....\"

So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples\' feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.

So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table ...\"You call me \'teacher\' and \'master,\' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another\'s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.
(St John, Chapter 13)

In that scene we encounter Jesus, before He who knew no sin, would suffer and freely stretch out His sacred arms to embrace the entire world and join heaven to earth, showing the depth and substance of true love.

Shortly after this event we read of the continuation of this act of poured out Love. First Jesus inaugurates the great meal that is itself the very heart of the holy exchange, The Sacrifice, the Holy Oblation of Love. He gives Himself as food for those who will make the journey with Him back to the Father and invites them to bring the whole world along with them.

Then, the Innocent One walks the way of suffering and mounts the altar of sacrifice on Golgotha in order to fully pour Himself out - every last drop of blood and water flowing from His wounded side - on behalf of us all, beginning creation anew, overcoming sin, paying the debt of justice and defeating the devil and last enemy, death.

As we enter into the Triduum, the three days which is one great liturgical day, we can make this mystery our own. We are not spectators, we are to become participants. All who bear the name Christian are now called to pick up that basin and towel, to climb upon that Cross and live this way of Love in service.

Our faith and love are meant to be active and incarnate. We live Loves´ eternal promise by living like the One who washed His disciples feet. When we do, we make the mystery real in a world which awaits the fullness of redemption.

Pope Francis will celebrate Holy Thursday Mass at Our Lady of Providence Center in Rome. The Center is run by the Father Carlo Gnocchi Foundation and is home to many disabled and elderly men and women with neuro-degenerative diseases, along with their doctors, caretakers and families.

This is a continuation of the beautiful act of love  last year when he washed the feet of young prisoners at the Casal del Marmo juvenile detention center in Rome. This act of loving witness reveals the interior meaning of the mandatum, the command of love expressed by Jesus at the Last Supper when He washed the feet of His Disciples.

Washing the feet of the poor was the practice of the former Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio. He carried it with him from his service to the Lord and His Church in Argentina into the Chair of Peter.  This is a priest, Bishop and Pope who recognizes the face of Jesus in the poor.

This is a beautiful continuation of a prophetic papacy which is moving the hearts of men and women throughout the world, drawing us to our knees and challenging us to live differently. Calling us to walk the talk.

There are two streams in the tradition concerning the washing of feet; both of which are ancient and beautiful. One directly connects the activity with the institution of the ministerial priesthood at the last Supper. This is how the optional Rite of Foot Washing became liturgically connected with the Mass of the Lord\'s Supper on Holy Thursday.

The other was practiced in monasteries and religious houses in the Church during her early developmental years. It is associated with the practice of hospitality and our prophetic call to imitate Jesus the Servant. Given the fact that travelers walked long distances, their feet were dirty and sometimes even wounded. Foot washing was a profound sign of the humility of the host and an act of Gospel hospitality. 

Sadly, the tussle over these two beautiful and meaningful symbols co-existing became fodder for a discussion which made its way into the secular press. The endless articles over what was essentially an in house debate did little to assist us as Christians in our primary call to proclaim the saving message of the Gospel in word and deed to an age which has lost its way. 

When the Lord rose from that table, He showed us a naturally supernatural expression of Love; an expression that reveals the heart of the Christian vocation and can be expressed in many ways. He, who is Lord and Master, King of Kings, took off His Cloak of Royal Splendor and became a Servant.

He washed the feet of those whom He had chosen to continue His Redemptive work. He showed them what they were chosen to do. He enlisted them to live lives of self emptying Love for the world. To bear the name Christian is to walk in this kind of love in the midst of a broken and wounded world. This command now passes to each one of us.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for August 2014
Refugees:
That refugees, forced by violence to abandon their homes, may find a generous welcome and the protection of their rights.
Oceania: That Christians in Oceania may joyfully announce the faith to all the people of that region.

Keywords: Holy Thursday, Eucharist, Last Supper, foot washing, mandatum, holiness, discipleship, love, Deacon Keith Fournier



NEWSLETTERS »

E-mail:       Zip Code: (ex. 90001)
Today's Headlines

Sign up for a roundup of the day's top stories. 5 days / week. See Sample

Rate This Article

Very Helpful Somewhat Helpful Not Helpful at All

Yes, I am Interested No, I am not Interested

Rate Article

1 - 2 of 2 Comments

  1. Tom McGuire
    4 months ago

    The foot washing is symbolic of what all missionary disciples are called to do. As Francis, Bishop of Rome, says in Joy of the Gospel it means "touching the suffering flesh of others. Oh, so difficult for those of us who live in comfort with all the necessities of life.

    Here is a quote from the Joy of the Gospel.

    270. Sometimes we are tempted to be that kind of Christian who keeps the Lord’s wounds at arm’s length. Yet Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others. He hopes that we will stop looking for those personal or communal niches which shelter us from the maelstrom of human misfortune and instead enter into the reality of other people’s lives and know the power of tenderness. Whenever we do so, our lives become wonderfully complicated and we experience intensely what it is to be a people, to be part of a people.

  2. michael
    4 months ago

    As many have stated, the act of footwashing is certainly a wonderful sign of charity and humility.
    St. Philip Neri used to wash the feet of pilgrims coming to Rome on a regular basis. But as you know, Deacon Keith, the Easter Rites, which you have a fondness for, would never even contemplate performing the Mandatum in a political way as has the pope. In their rituals, they wash the feet of men only without exception. Also, it is most often clerical feet that receiving the washing. The liturgy is about renewing and re-presenting the events of our Redemption. Christ washed the feet of His Apostles on that night...His first bishops. It was not about ideology. It was not about politicizing liturgy. It was about His love for His special friends. Pope Francis could wash the feet of inmates or hospital residents on Holy Wednesday, but he purposely chose Holy Thursday for the effect. Granted that, as pope, he can dispense himself from rubrics, priests could not as it is forbidden under liturgical law to wash the feet of women. Most unfortunately, the liturgy of Rome is the liturgy of the entire Latin Rite. It is to be the model. Many priests and bishops will now imitate Francis though they cannot dispense themselves from the rubrics. Thank you, Pope Francis, for bringing about yet another liturgical shipwreck in the New Rite of Mass. Find a Traditional Latin Mass to attend quick where there is no such violations....no women's feet being washed on Holy Thursday, no altar girls, no extraordinary ministers, no Communion in the hand. It will bring sanity again to your life.

Leave a Comment

Comments submitted must be civil, remain on-topic and not violate any laws including copyright. We reserve the right to delete any comments which are abusive, inappropriate or not constructive to the discussion.

Though we invite robust discussion, we reserve the right to not publish any comment which denigrates the human person, undermines marriage and the family, or advocates for positions which openly oppose the teaching of the Catholic Church.

This is a supervised forum and the Editors of Catholic Online retain the right to direct it.

We also reserve the right to block any commenter for repeated violations. Your email address is required to post, but it will not be published on the site.

We ask that you NOT post your comment more than once. Catholic Online is growing and our ability to review all comments sometimes results in a delay in their publication.

Send me important information from Catholic Online and it's partners. See Sample

Post Comment

More Easter / Lent

'So it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead' - Luke 24:46

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption. continue reading


Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four canonical Gospels. (Mark 11:1.11, Matthew 21:1.11, Luke 19:28.44, and John 12:12.19) ... continue reading


Holy Week

On Palm Sunday, we celebrate the first joy of the season, as we celebrate Our Lord's triumphant entrance into Jerusalem where he was welcomed by crowds worshiping him and laying down palm leaves before him. It also marks the beginning of Holy Week... continue reading


Holy Thursday

HOLY THURSDAY is the most complex and profound of all religious observances. It celebrates his last supper with the disciples, a celebration of Passover ... continue reading


Good Friday

On Good Friday, each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption. In the solemn ceremonies of Holy Week we unite ourselves to our Savior, and we contemplate our own death to sin in the Death of our Lord ... continue reading


Easter Sunday

Easter is the principal feast of the ecclesiastical year. Leo I (Sermo xlvii in Exodum) calls it the greatest feast (festum festorum), and says that Christmas is celebrated only in preparation for Easter. It is the centre of the greater part of the ecclesiastical year ... continue reading


Fasting and Abstinence

For most people the easiest practice to consistently fulfill will be the traditional one, to abstain from meat on all Fridays of the year. During Lent abstinence from meat on Fridays is obligatory in the United States as elsewhere. Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed (Lk. 5:35). continue reading


FAQs About Lent

Everything answered from when does lent end, ashes, giving something up, stations of the cross and blessed palms. The key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple: Baptism... continue reading


Stations of the Cross

Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion. First Station: Jesus is condemned to death... pray the stations now


What did you give up for Lent?

What did you give up for Lent?

From the humorous to the bizarre, people have had interesting Lenten experiences. Tell us about what you are going to give up for this Lenten Year.
What others gave up »

Lent / Easter News

  • 5th Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion
    Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014

    This Sorrowful pilgrimage now brings me here to this lonely hill. All the agony, the beatings and the bleeding have led me somewhere I do not want to go; somewhere I resist going with all my ...Continue Reading

  • 4th Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross
    Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014

    I wonder if perhaps it was tempting for Jesus to just lie down on the dirt road and die right there. Completely sapped of strength and in agonizing pain, I wonder if He was tempted by the ...Continue Reading

  • 3rd Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning with Thorns
    Jennifer Hartline - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014

    Humiliation, in one form or another, is part of the package.  It is only avoidable if we decide to deny Christ. WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - 3rd Sorrowful Mystery:  The Crowning ...Continue Reading

  • Good Friday Reflection on the Nature of Sin
    Michael Terheyden - Catholic Online, 4/18/2014

    The Passion of Christ represents the most atrocious miscarriage of justice in all of human history. So when we come face to face with the crucified Christ on Good Friday, it is only natural for us to ...Continue Reading

Good Friday

  • Good Friday

    On Good Friday, the entire Church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. Each member of the Church tries to understand at what cost Christ has won our redemption.

    The Cross

    In the symbol of the Cross we can see the magnitude of the human tragedy, the ravages of original sin, and the infinite love of God. Learn More

Ash Wednesday

  • Ash Wednesday

    Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.

    The Ashes

    The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. Learn More

Stations of the Cross

  • Stations of the Cross

    Stations of the Cross refers to the depiction of the final hours (or Passion) of Jesus, and the devotion commemorating the Passion.

    Opening Prayer

    ACT OF CONTRITION. O my God, my Redeemer, behold me here at Thy feet. From the bottom of my heart... Pray the Stations

Fasting & Abstinence

  • 'Christ Himself said that His disciples would fast once He had departed' Lk. 5:35

    Abstinence. The law of abstinence requires a Catholic 14 years of age until death to abstain from eating meat on Fridays in honor of the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. Salt and freshwater species of fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are permitted.

    Fasting. The law of fasting requires a Catholic from the 18th Birthday (Canon 97) to the 59th Birthday (i.e. the beginning of the 60th year, a year which will be completed on the 60th birthday) to reduce the amount of food eaten from normal. The Church defines this as one meal a day, and two smaller meals which if added together would not exceed the main meal.
    Learn More »


Newsletter Sign Up

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Second Thessalonians 3:6-10, 16-18
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we urge you, brothers, to ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 128:1-2, 4-5
[Song of Ascents] How blessed are all who fear Yahweh, who walk ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 23:27-32
'Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are ... Read More

Saint of the Day

August 27 Saint of the Day

St. Monica
August 27: St. Monica was married by arrangement to a pagan official in ... Read More