Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Mandatum

"This is how all will know you for my disciples: by your love for one another."

That is what it is all about, isn't it?  Loving one another.

Why can't we understand that?  Why can't I?

If the local ordinary of the place permits variations to the ritual of washing the feet of the faithful in imitation of Christ when he washed the feet of the disciples, who am I to make a big deal of it?  If the pastor of the parish I go to does it and I'm uncomfortable with it (I'm not) then I can go to another church or offer it up and pray a chaplet or something.  Getting upset or angry, or watching for errors and recording abuses is probably not the best disposition for approaching Holy Communion.

The USCCB addresses the question here:

Because the gospel of the mandatum read on Holy Thursday also depicts Jesus as the "Teacher and Lord" who humbly serves his disciples by performing this extraordinary gesture which goes beyond the laws of hospitality, the element of humble service has accentuated the celebration of the foot washing rite in the United States over the last decade or more. In this regard, it has become customary in many places to invite both men and women to be participants in this rite in recognition of the service that should be given by all the faithful to the Church and to the world. Thus, in the United States, a variation in the rite developed in which not only charity is signified but also humble service. - Read more at USCCB
"This is the latest statement of this Secretariat on the question. No subsequent legislation or instructions have necessitated a modification in the statement."

Top photo:  Evidently there is a trend amongst Protestants of the bride and groom washing one another's feet.  I used the photo because it reminded me of Christ the Bridegroom washing the feet of his disciples.

Christ the Bridegroom


  1. What's an ordinary priest to do? For years, Fr. So and So has been trying to stick to the rules, out of fidelity to the Church. Perhaps he's even been labeled a Pharisee or a rigid grump a few times. Father could say when asked about washing women's feet, only: “The rubrics don’t allow that and I don’t have the authority to do otherwise.” To which of course the reply would be: but the Pope does it. And so there Father is, right in the middle. He really can't win: he has no grounds on which to do what some people want him to, and yet, it would seem to the consciousness of some Catholics, that he has the only grounds he needs: just do what the Pope does.

    As I was reflecting on this charge of "Phariseeism", especially against the backdrop of it somehow being unloving to follow the rules, as it is sometimes expressed, I noticed that when Christ denounces the Pharisees (at least in Matthew), He does not pit the rules or the 'smaller' items against what 'really matters'. He says, in fact: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You pay tithes* of mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier things of the law: judgment and mercy and fidelity. [But] these you should have done, without neglecting the others."

    Their sin was not in following the rules, and Christ, in reply, did not appeal to "all you need is love." He instead held up both: "without neglecting the others".

    So often today, I believe, even religious people who wish to be pious cling to ideologies or ideas, rather than to who Christ is as He revealed Himself to be. It is as if they follow who they believe Christ to be rather than who He is, according to Divine Revelation.

    I was also reflecting, again from Matthew's text, on the idea of burdens being heaped upon shoulders of others but without lifting a finger to move them. In my understanding, the Mandatum is an option, and so the Church has been merciful perhaps in giving the option to let that 'burden' of the inevitable gender wars that break out over this question - itself a misguided fight but a fight nonetheless - be lifted from the ordinary priests who must deal with it, perhaps especially so since the matter has become more complicated to explain in the last year.

  2. Ewww. Isn't it enough for me to promise I will obey, never mind washing his feet? *sigh*


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