I’ve been on retreat since Tuesday of Holy Week, but I thought I would take a look how Pope Francis is faring. It seems people are in a huff over his washing the feet of young prisoners at Casal del Marmo during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening. In my lightning quick survey, I may have missed it, but it really looks like there’s not even one comment about what’s going on in Scripture other than that the Apostles were the receivers of the mandatum, the mandate, to wash feet.
I fully realize that the Liturgy is its own source, as it were, so to speak, but just as Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the Sacred Magisterium form a kind of tripod which will not correctly manifest for us weak men what it is that the Lord provides for us if any leg of that tripod is kicked away, just so will the Liturgy, as a living expression of the entirety of that tripod, as a kind of burning lamp on top of that tripod, be unable to enliven and enlighten without the threefold support of that tripod.
We’ve seen emotional commentary, legal commentary, liturgical commentary and so on. Perhaps a Scriptural comment would help us to understand a bit more. The Most Holy Bible is often dismissed by those in the ditch on the right or the left as irrelevant, but we should be loath to say that what the Lord of History has provided and permitted and what the Holy Spirit has inspired is useless for our lives and the very Liturgy which is to have us worship the Most High God.
Recall the following:
- In the Garden of Eden, the serpent was cursed to eat the dust of the cursed ground into which the dead body of Adam and the rest of us would return. Note well that the dust of the ground is cursed and is the home of Satan.
- There was a time when a very particular patch of dirt was un-cursed, made holy, because of the presence of He-Who-Is in the burning bush. Moses was ordered to take off his sandals, which had raised him up above the cursed dust, because right there, right then, that dust was not cursed. It had been taken out of the realm of Satan.
- Jesus commanded his disciples to kick the dust off their feet when their preaching had been rejected by any village, because in doing this, the Divine Son of God Himself explained, a sign would be provided against that village, indeed, a curse. That dust is the home of Satan, just as they are for rejecting the Kingdom of the Heavens. The curse is so ferocious that our Lord says that their lot will be worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Pretty bad, that.
- At the Last Supper, when Jesus washed the dust off the feet of the disciples and said that his Apostles were to imitate this humble service, our Lord was referring to being charitable, humbly, in all service.
Sure. But there is more. Our Lord refers to this “more” Himself, so we ought best pay attention to this.
- John 13,1 — We read that Jesus knew that His Hour had arrived. Indeed, that is the time that all hell would break loose.
- John 13,2 — We read that Judas had already been diabolically smacked down that he might betray Jesus. Judas is unclean in every sense of the term.
- John 13,3 — We read that Jesus knows that the Father has provided that Jesus is omnipotent, that all things are in His power and that, despite what Judas and Satan were up to, He, Jesus, was from God and was returning to God.
- John 13,4 — We read in the very same sentence of all that precedes, including the bit about Judas being smacked down by Satan, that Jesus got up, shed His outer garments, and girt Himself with a towel in view of the foot-washing to come.
- John 13,5 — We read that He began to wash the feet of the disciples, who, in this case, are, in fact, the Apostles.
- John 13,6 — We read of Simon Peter questioning Jesus about his feet being washed.
- John 13,7 — We read, mysteriously, that Jesus says to him, that he does not now understand what He, Jesus, is doing, but that, in the future, he will. If this were merely about a nice symbol of service, that would be simple to understand, but there is more.
- John 13, 8 — We read that Peter, obviously dismissing the observation of Jesus and thinking that he completely understands, remonstrates with Jesus, saying that He will never have his feet washed by Jesus. But Jesus’ reprimand for this is extremely severe, warning Peter that he will be cut off altogether if he does not allow this. Our Lord indicated that there was more. It is best to listen to Jesus.
- John 13,9 — We read that Peter still dismisses the observation of Jesus that he, Peter, does not now understand, and Peter charges ahead to say that he offers not only his feet, but his head and hands as well. But it is best to listen to Jesus.
- John 13,10 — We read that Jesus says that the one who has been cleansed (a perfect passive participle calling baptism to mind) has no need to be cleansed except for the feet (where that cursed dust is), for Jesus says, he is already entirely clean. But then Jesus adds, “but not all,” that is, not all among ye all.
- John 13,11 — We read John’s own comment: “For He knew who would betray him. For this reason, He said, “Not all of you are clean.” This is a direct reference to Judas, who is smacked down by Satan. The connection to the cursed dust on the feet could not be clearer. It is Judas who will raise his heel with its cursed dust, the home of Satan, against Jesus, a horrific reversal of the Son of the Mother of the Redeemer in Genesis 3,15, raising His heel to crush Satan on the head. But it is in getting crushed Himself that Jesus will defeat Satan, having gained the right in all justice, in this way, to have mercy on us.
- John 13,12 — Having finished, we read that Jesus asks the Apostles if they understand what He has done for them, although this is a rhetorical question, for He already said that they do not now understand this. It simply looks like a nice service of foot-washing.
- John 13,13-17 — We read that Jesus immediately explains that if He, Lord and teacher, has done this for them, they likewise ought to do this for one another, for they, slaves and messengers, are not above their Lord and the One who is providing a mandate. If they only understand the nice service aspect of this, that’s nice, but truly blessed are they who understand what this is really all about and then go about doing it. This is about more than just a nice service. This has to do with establishing the Kingdom of the Heavens by simultaneously exorcising the earthly kingdom of Satan.
- John 13,18 — We read that Jesus immediately explains more about this: He singles out him whom He has chosen, His betrayer, Judas, possessed by Satan, speaking of the fulfillment of Scriptural prophesy (Scripture is important), namely, “He who eats my bread has lifted his heel against me,” that heel with the dust of Satan upon it.
- John 13,19 — And for those who doubt the connection that I have made to He-Who-IS in the Garden of Eden and at the Burning Bush, we read here that Jesus says that He is telling us these things before they happen so that when they do happen, that will believe that He is the One who is I AM.
- John 13,20-26 — We read about the discovery of the betrayer, Judas, to whom Christ Jesus gives the morsel of bread.
- John 13,27 — We read of the full possession of Judas by Satan, and that Jesus commands him (Judas? Satan?) to do quickly what he is going to do.
- John 13,28-30 — We read of the non-perception of the Apostles and then of the departure of Judas, after having taken the morsel. We read that, “It was night.”
- John 13,31ff — We read of Jesus speaking of the great glory of what is now happening with the betrayal, that is, Jesus and the Father being glorified with the great love which Jesus is manifesting, and which He commands the remaining Apostles to show to each other. It is a love that will bring Him to His death, and this is what He expects of His Apostles in their ministry of establishing the Kingdom of the heavens while simultaneously exorcising the kingdom of Satan, namely, that they will also provide witness to Him with that love that loves even in the face of death. We read of our promises to be faithful, but that our Lord knows that we can deny Him nonetheless.
Now then, is Pope Francis wrong in choosing to emphasize the service aspect of this foot-washing? No, he can choose to do that, and with great benefit for the Church.
In seeming not to emphasize the other particular aspect of the foot-washing, which has to do with the Satan’s kingdom being washed away, it is not as if Pope Francis is saying that he does think that Satan does not exist. He has mentioned Satan more often in a brief space of time perhaps more than any other Pontiff on record, and to great effect.
In washing the feet of the youth, it is not as if Pope Francis is participating in some sort of antidisestablishmentarianisticalness on behalf of Satan. No, no. He’s just showing us what his idea of the new evangelization is all about: Have people of whatever sex, religion, culture, social status or condition draw close to God so that Satan will run away.
Just because Jesus washed the feet of the Apostles does not mean that only those who are symbolic of the Apostles, for instance, viri, men, are alone to have their feet washed in this way.
When the Apostles then wash the feet of others in this way, it does not mean that the others have to be ordainable, that is, men. This is not an ordination rite.
So, think about it. What does this say about the Holy Father’s idea about interreligious dialogue? Heh heh heh.
He has already mentioned reason for dialogue with Muslims in his fantastic Regensburg-like address to the diplomats. Heh heh heh.
The Holy Father has not at all ignored the other aspect of being washed from the evil influence of Satan. Not at all. Heh heh heh.
None of this is antithetical to the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. It has everything to do with the ones for whom Christ allowed Himself to be crushed. Beautiful.
I am very thankful to Almighty God for Pope Francis!