Washing Of Feet


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Washing Of Feet

  1. 1. Running Head: Washing of Feet 1 Washing of Feet: Ancient Traditions to Modern Practice Desiree Ferwalt Spirituality in Nursing (Summer 2011-SOL1) June 22, 2011
  2. 2. Running Head: Washing of Feet 2 Absract Foot washing is an ancient religious ritual dating as far back to times in the OldTestament. It is still observed as an ordinance by many Christian denominations today used toestablish our biblical roots. In this paper I will describe feet washing, its history, where it ispracticed, how it is done, and a controversy that is going on about it.
  3. 3. Running Head: Washing of Feet 3 Washing of Feet: Ancient Traditions to Modern Practice What is the Washing of the Feet? What is the point of this very old ritual? Where is itsrelevance in this technological age? In this paper I will describe feet washing, its history, whereit is practiced, how it is done, and a controversy that is going on about it. Foot washing also called “washing of the saint‟s feat” is a religious ritual observed as anordinance to many Christian denominations, such as the Roman Catholic Church and theMennonite Church. (Bender and Klassen, 2011) The ceremony of washing feet has a long historyand even biblical roots. In the Bible especially the Old Testament you can find several referencesto washing a person‟s feet. Here are some reference points to look at Genesis 18:4; 19:2; 24:32;43:24; Judg 19:21; 1 Sam 25:41; cf. 2 Sam 11:8 (Coloe, 2004, pg.413). In ancient timesperforming or offering this service was a sign of hospitality. The guest to a household would beoffered a bowl of water and towel to perform this task. The host, one of the host‟s servant, or theguest themselves would perform the custom depending on circumstance or the guest‟simportance. The reasoning for washing a person‟s feet back then other than it was a sign ofwelcome was that the ancient people wore sandals and their feet became dirty very quickly(Coloe, 2004, pg.400). This is a time honored tradition that is still being practiced by some livingin the Middle East as well as in some Christian denominations in remembrance of Christ‟steachings. Christian churches associate foot washing as part of the Mass of the Lords Supper. Thisis a celebration of the Last Supper, where Jesus washed the feet of his twelve apostles (Benderand Klassen, 2011).One of the most famous foot washing scenes in the Bible can be found in theGospel of John 13:1-17(King James Version):
  4. 4. Running Head: Washing of Feet 4 Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come, that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot Simon‟s son, to betray him; Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciple‟s feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter said unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit; and ye are clean, but not all. For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. So after he washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. I then your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one anothers feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. Normally a person would wash their own feet or have a servant do it for them. Theliterary author of Welcome into the Household of God: The Foot Washing in John 13 Mary L.
  5. 5. Running Head: Washing of Feet 5Coloe, P.B.V.M. goes into great detail about this scripture in the bible. She states that Jesus ishumbling himself by washing the disciple‟s feet for them instead of letting them do itthemselves. Jesus is stating here that all men are equal in God‟s eyes. The foot washing can alsobe seen as an expression of love in this scripture (2004, pg.408-412). Mary L. Coloe describesthis passage on foot washing as “…an invitation to the disciples to become participants withJesus in his „hour‟” (2004, pg.409). The author further describes how by Jesus washing thedisciples feet he is showing hospitality by “…welcome[ing them] into the Father‟s householdthat will be accomplished at the cross” (2004, pg.412) As stated in the article “Feetwashing” by Harold S. Bender and William Klassen discuss howsome congregations practice washing of feet immediately following the communion twice a year, onceduring the spring and again in the fall, feetwashing also came twice a year. service. The FranconiaConference of the Mennonite Church (MC) have been practicing this tradition since the 1950s. (2011) Other Christian groups such as the Lutheran, Methodist, and Eastern Orthodox and manyothers practice an alteration of washing of the feet on Maundy Thursday at the end of theirLiturgy. There are many variations used. Some churches will have a bishop wash twelvelaypersons feet. Others include the entire congregation in the practice (Bender and Klassen,2011). How do you perform washing of the feet? Harold S. Bender and William Klassen discussin the article “Feetwashing” how this is performed. As stated previously in this paper feetwashing will vary upon congregation and denomination. After communion is given theceremony is started by reading from the book of John. Then each member of the church will taketurn washing the feet of another church member. One at a time you place the feet are placed into
  6. 6. Running Head: Washing of Feet 6the metal or wooden basin of warm water and then are washed by cupping the hand and pouringwater over each foot. Then the foot is dried with towel around usually worn around the waistrepresenting how Jesus girded himself. It is then sometimes ended with a holy kiss and a Godbless you. It is believed by the authors that this teaches the congregation humility and equality.(2011) In the article written in 2004 Coloe briefly states of another instance where you might seewashing of the feet done is before baptism in some European and Asian countries (pg.407) In the United States the communal practice of congregation members has been of greatdebate. Here there is some controversy on whether or not women and younger people should beexcluded from this practice. In the article Women Included and Excluded in Holy Thursday FootWashing states that many church leaders have been advocating “…for limiting the ceremony tomen in accord with the example of Jesus at the Last Supper”. (2004, pg.5) While other churcheschoose to include the entire congregation in this ceremony. At the moment whether or not theentire congregation including women and younger members of the church can participate is up tothe individual pastors (“Women Included and Exlcuded…”, 2004, pg. 5) Though I have a personal discomfort with handling feet I can see the significance ofwanting to practice this ancient custom if only to remember its biblical roots and meaning thatlay behind this ritual. It is a right that should not exclude anyone from the ritual since it is notonly the older men who faithful followers in Jesus Christ. As stated before in the book of John13: 16(King James Version) “The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sentgreater than he that sent him.”
  7. 7. Running Head: Washing of Feet 7 In this paper I have described what feet washing is, its history, where it is practiced, howit is done, and a controversy that is going on about it. Though the reasoning for doing thisceremony has changed over the years what it symbolizes stays the same: hospitality, equality,humility and love.
  8. 8. Running Head: Washing of Feet 8 ReferencesBender, Harold S. and William Klassen. (2011). Feetwashing. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 22 July 2011, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/F44ME.html.Coloe, M. L. (2004). Welcome into the Household of God: The Foot Washing in John 13. Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 66(3), 400-415. Retrieved July 19, 2011, from Academic Search Premier.Women included and excluded in Holy Thursday foot washing. (2004). National Catholic Reporter, 40(24), 5. Retrieved July 20, 2011, from Academic Search Premier.