Jesus got up from the meal, took off his top garments, and wrapped a towel around his waist. He poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him … John 13: 4, 5
One of the desert fathers used to say: There are three things we honour – the fellowship of holy communion, the hospitality of meals, and the washing of one another’s feet.
The example of Jesus in washing others’ feet was not only followed in hot and dusty lands, for this practice was followed in Celtic lands too.
It was said that when Cuthbert was put in charge of guests at Ripon monastery, God sent him a visitor to test how Christ-like was Cuthbert’s guest care. One day he found a youth waiting in the guest room and gave him his usual kindly welcome. He fetched water so his guest could wash his hands; then Cuthbert washed his feet himself, tenderly dried them, and held them against his chest while he gave them a warm massage.
The reason people wondered whether this youth had been an angel in disguise is that, just before a warm evening meal was brought to him, he vanished into thin air. There was snow outside, but not a footprint could be seen.
In a society which has heated bathrooms washing feet may be an artificial way to reflect Jesus’ example, but there are other ways to do this. Can you think of any? Remember, the next person you meet may be a test case!
Lord, take my hands.
May your compassion always flow though them.
May they offer tender touch
to people who are deprived of touch or tenderness.
May they offer human warmth
to people who are cold or dispirited.
May they offer practical care
to people who are weary and overworked.