I hope you’re having a great Holy Week so far. I look forward to celebrating the Triduum with you in the days ahead.
Tomorrow night, we will celebrate Holy Thursday, where we commemorate what happened at the Last Supper: The Institution of the Eucharist, the Institution of the Priesthood, and the Lord’s example of service and humility in washing his disciples’ feet. You will notice one small change to the liturgy tomorrow.
As you may know, the Latin words in the instruction for Mass were always clear that the people chosen for the foot washing should be men. This is because the apostles were all men, and one of the key aspects of Holy Thursday is the celebration of the beginning of the sacramental priesthood. While it was always understood that the foot washing was an example for all of us on how we are all called to serve humbly, priest or not, and how we are called to allow ourselves to be served humbly, priest or not, the rules for the Mass didn’t want to lose sight of the special significance of the institution of priesthood.
As you also may know, Pope Francis has chosen to wash the feet of women during the Holy Thursday Mass the past few years. This year, he has changed the rules for all parishes to allow pastors to do the same throughout the world “to manifest the full meaning of the rite to those who participate” so that those who have their feet washed represent the “variety and unity of every part of the People of God”. Following the Holy Father’s example, we will include women in our feet washing ceremony this year. The focus, in this approach, is less on the sacramental priesthood of the apostles and more on their representation as the people of God. The emphasis is more on the universal call to service and humility and love and less on the sacramental aspect. We will follow the Pope’s example in emphasizing the variety and unity of the people of God and that God’s call to humble service extends to all, though in different ways.
To this end, I have asked six men and six women who serve the parish in leadership roles or who are representing various parish groups, activities, or outreaches, in addition to their own personal witness and service, to serve as those who have their feet washed this year. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow night.
For a link to the Vatican News Service post explaining the changes in more detail, click here.