Sunday, 31 March 2013

Time to wash those feet again

A brother washes feet at Taizé (Journal de Saône-et-Loire)
I was reminded of last year’s visit to Taizé for the Maundy Thursday evening service and feet washing “ceremony”, when I read on the internet that Pope Francis was washing feet in Rome.

When I researched the feet washing thing, this time last year, I found instructions about how to prepare for the ceremony, but it was not the preparations the guy/gal doing the washing, but the instructions for the Washees that intrigued and somewhat irritated me. The Washees should make sure that their feet are clean before they come to the service, with the implication that the Bishop (or other Washer) should not be confronted by any form of dirt or smelliness. Was that what Jesus said at the last supper? “Make sure your feet are clean or I won’t wash them”. Err excuse me, washing is about cleaning, about showing you are no better than any one else and are not too important to do any task, no matter how unpleasant - it’s about being humble.

That aside, with the stinking cold I have had since our return from Malta, I decided not to go to the service at Taizé on Thursday evening and I now really regret that I didn’t go. The Taizé service has always been inter-brother feet washing experience, all of who would have equally clean or dirty feet, so probably not too many surprises. But I read in the paper, the next day, that the brothers washed the feet of the congregation for the first time. So this year there were no rules, no regulations, take it as you find it, not necessarily a nice job, but it is an action that reminds all of those involved, that we are none of us better than others, and we could all do well to remember that sometimes.

The Pope washes feet (Reuters via BBC website)
Now back to the pope’s feet washing. I am not sure whether it is unusual for a pope to wash feet or not, but I am sure that it would have been only be feet of the important, pious, invited few and I am doubly sure that the rules would have been very strict indeed. But this new pope set new standards this year, he went to a young offenders institution and washed and kissed the feet of twelve young criminals and not all of those feet looked particularly clean to me. What a gesture to make - that is leadership. Whether Pope Francis influenced the Taizé brothers actions this year or not, I don’t know, but it is an interesting and adventurous change all round.

I can’t help but be intrigued by this new pope, he has set in motion a refreshing wind of change which is wafting through the Vatican and I suspect he is sending some ripples of discontent amongst the diehards. He is reported to have shunned the almost palatial Pope’s residence and is staying in a two room suite in the building next door. I quote the BBC’s reporting directly on this one:

His spokesman said he was "trying out this type of simple living" in a communal building with other priests…. He said he could not say whether the Pope would remain in these quarters in the long term.

The new pope and  popemobile (NRC)
Maybe they are hoping he will come to his senses and soon start behaving like a normal pope, I personally think there are a lot of people who hope he will not. In any case I couldn’t resist posting this last photo (from the NRC) of a rather cute model of the new pope (taken in Izalco, San Salvador) in his super, non-bullet-proof popemobile.

Happy Easter to everyone, Washers and Washees alike.

La Tuilerie Website, giving details of accommodation within walking distance of Taizé.

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