As a young and insecure novice, I was one of those chosen to have my feet washed by the Provincial Superior at a Holy Week Retreat made by about 60 Irish Jesuits. As it happened, I was assigned the first chair. I didn’t know this, but the kind Sacristan, worried that cold water would be uncomfortable for us, put hot water into the ewer to be used by the Provincial as he bathed our feet. It turned out to be scalding hot water and, as the Provincial poured it onto my foot, I screamed and leaped out of my chair.
To say that it broke the solemnity of the occasion would be putting it quite mildly. I was (and still am) mortified by my reaction, natural as it was.
I have never since been comfortable with the Ceremony of the Washing of the Feet. I intellectually appreciate its significance and import, but I have ever since avoided being a volunteer for this ritual.
Over the years, I have participated in alternative versions, mostly consisting of washing hands rather than feet. But, on some visceral level, that doesn’t seem to carry the same spiritual weight.
Do you have any experience of an updated and culturally-appropriate way for us to demonstrate the beauty and majesty of Christ’s humble action at the Last Supper?