Tuesday, April 19, 2011
When I was a child on Long Island,this Thursday was a day close to my heart.The altars in the Catholic Churches would be festooned with glorious flowers.Covered in fact were all surfaces with lilies,roses,lilacs,whites,yellows,purples;a feast for the eyes.There was a church on the South Shore,in Oceanside I think, that had cages with yellow canaries rejoicing with song that echoed off the ceilings.As a family we would go from church to church and soak up Spring's bounty.
I am thinking now that this overflowing beauty must have been in celebration of the Last Supper, the day we were left a sacrament of Love.
I don't know if this is still done in the North but here we celebrate something as beautiful,the washing of the feet.In recreating Christ's washing of his apostles'feet, priests,deacons,and altar servers all get on hands and knees and with buckets and towels,wash the feet of some of the congregation.It is so moving,this humbling servitude.
One year ,at the homeless shelter, Sister Pat and I offered to do this for anyone there that Holy Thursday.No one volunteered but the small staff said yes and so we proceeded to wash their feet with great gentleness.Every woman got up with tears in their eyes.Every time I went, after that ,one or another would thank me again.
I am thinking of a story that I read that took place in Rio de Janeiro,Brazil.A desperate man was walking the streets,head down ,muttering to himself.In his despair he was planning his suicide.As he passed a storefront, he saw a T.V. on and the screen revealed Mother Teresa in her humble blue and white garb.She was being interviewed about her work for the poor in India.She who picked up dying lepers and carried them to her House to be tended.In that instant, the man knew that God had not abandoned us.He left the street a different man.
This is what we will celebrate this Thursday, Christ's admonition and example of selfless, humble serving.It brings tears because somehow we know it is really God serving us and He is still here,has not left us alone.