After the meal, Christ washed the feet of the Apostles. The Mystical Supper revealed His divine Son-ship and authority, urging his disciples to love one another as he had loved them. By washing the feet of His disciples, He manifested His perfect love and revealed His profound humility.
The scene of the foot-washing is depicted as described by the Gospels. Peter objected to having his feet washed by His Lord, Jesus replied that if He did not wash His feet then Peter had no communion with Him. Peter retorted: “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head,” and this is how he is shown in icons of the scene, hand raised to indicate Christ should wash his head as well, only here I have in his place, a women.
According to Paschales Solemnitatis:
The proper significance of this ritual can be reviewed in the light of our contemporary society, for its valuable message. Christ came “not to be served, but to serve.” and to teach us to do the same through service and charity.
The Church’s official texts use language that indicates only men (Latin, viri) Today’s liturgy of the feet washing on Holy Thursday has recently become more complex. In 2005, Cardinal Sean O’Malley made a query to the Holy See about the matter of washing the feet of women in Boston.
After consulting the overseers of liturgical practices in Rome, it was suggested by that he was to use whatever pastoral decision he thought was best for the congregation. Cardinal O’Malley then included women in the foot-washing rite.
This sequence of events created a situation that was significantly muddier than expected. If the Cardinal O’Malley was allowed to make pastoral exceptions to the rule, it would be difficult to argue that other bishops could not do the same in their dioceses. This had the effect of creating a doubt as to what the law requires. According to the Code of Canon Law, “Laws, even invalidating and incapacitating ones, do not oblige when there is a doubt of law” (CIC 14).
SO THIS MEANS; Until the Holy See clarifies the matter, it appears that the law provides that only men are to have their feet washed in the ceremony but that the local bishop can choose to include women in his diocese if he deems it the best pastoral decision.
During this years Maundy Thursday’s intimate foot washing service, 2016, the Pope washed and kissed the feet of 12 young imprisoned detainees to replicate the Bible’s account of Jesus Christ’s gesture of humility towards his 12 apostles on the night before he was crucified.
The 12 inmates included two girls, one Italian Catholic and one of Serbian Muslim origin, local prison Ombudsman Angiolo Marroni.
That was certainly a dramatic and timely gesture.
So I used this as my authorization for sacred image. I have created, written, painted, an Image of Foot Washing with Women. It is not orthodox but it does illustrate it is time to re-frame some of this historic mumbo jumbo. It is of paramount importance that we make new decisions about such simple stuff. Catholic women want to, and need to see themselves included in the Christ story, at all the events. Men need to see them there and I hope and want them there as well. It is correct in the scheme of perfect love.
I look to Pope Francis for direction and permission. It seems obvious living in our messy world, we all need our feet washed and be the foot washer for others as a gesture of perfect love and profound humility, regardless of gender.