Part of me does not want to post anything for these three days of Holy Week. Part of me wants to simply participate in the Triduum services. I wish to simply follow this liturgy as it was intended. There is though the problem that one day of this liturgy has been a source of debate for nearly fifty years, and that day was today. The problem though is that I am not a liturgist, nor a theologian. I am some one who attends a liturgy. This day is the Mass of the Lords supper, and it is the Mass that commemorates the institution of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist. It recalls the events of the last supper, and the Passover. It seems that the focus of this Mass is the liturgy of the Eucharist. The mass celebrated though contains another part that only occurs on Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Lords Supper. That extra event is the optional ritual of the washing of feet. Oddly though that optional component of the Mass, has become the focal point of the day. It is what one is most likely to read about in the newspaper. It is what one is most likely to read about in many religious commentaries. It also has become the focal point while the Mass is being celebrated.
Why has this event gained so much notoriety? Why is it the only tradition that one hears about regarding holy Thursday? The reason is that this washing of feet is traditionally done to men. Traditionally it excludes women, and for fifty years the Women’s liberation movement has latched onto this ritual.Sadly instead of this day commemorating Christ and the Holy Mass that He instituted, it has become a day for celebrating all of the varied ministries that men and women participate in. It seems that the Lord has been replaced at the Mass of the Lords Supper.
I think of this partially because I remember the old rite for this Mass, and I still recall the heated arguments against the tradition of washing select men’s feet by a priest. I also think about it because there were so many other traditions associated with this day that were lost simply because they were not controversial. One that comes to mind is visiting the various altars of repose over the next couple days. I am certain there are other traditions, but they are not newsworthy.
For this Mass I would think it wonderful if a priest would explain the focus of the mass, the traditions associated with it, and maybe even the reason why the washing of feet is included, and what the traditions associated with it have been over the centuries. Perhaps then the focus of the liturgy can be celebrating it the way the Lord intended. Then again perhaps all of the controversy is that various people interpret the Lord differently. Perhaps this particular Thursday is intended to be a day of controversy, but personally I think much of that controversy simply detracts from the liturgy of this day.