21 April 2011

Holy Thursday Foot Washing

The Church observes foot washing do so on the basis of the authoritative example and command of Jesus as found in the Gospel of John 13:1-15:
And before the feast of the passover, Jesus knowing that His hour hath come, that He may remove out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own who are in the world -- to the end He loved them. And supper being come, the devil already having put it into the heart of Judas of Simon, Iscariot, that he may deliver Him up, Jesus, knowing that all things the Father hath given to Him -- into His hands -- and that from God He came forth, and unto God He goeth, doth rise from the supper, and doth lay down his garments, and having taken a towel, he girded himself; afterward he putteth water into the basin, and began to wash the feet of his disciples, and to wipe with the towel with which he was being girded. He cometh, therefore, unto Simon Peter, and that one saith to him, `Sir, thou -- dost Thou wash my feet?' Jesus answered and said to him, `That which I do thou hast not known now, but thou shalt know after these things;' Peter saith to him, `Thou mayest not wash my feet -- to the age.' Jesus answered him, `If I may not wash thee, thou hast no part with me.' Simon Peter saith to him, `Sir, not my feet only, but also the hands and the head.' Jesus saith to him, `He who hath been bathed hath no need, save to wash his feet, for he is clean altogether; and ye are clean, but not all;' for He knew him who is delivering him up; because of this He said, `Ye are not all clean.' When, therefore, He washed their feet, and took His garments, having reclined at meat again, He said to them, `Do ye know what I have done to you? Ye call me, "The Teacher" and "The Lord", and ye say well, for I am; if then I did wash your feet -- the Lord and the Teacher -- ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given thee an example, that ye should do as I have done to ye. Verily, verily, I say unto ye, 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.
Jesus demonstrates the custom of the time when he comments on the' lack of hospitality in one Pharisees' home by not providing water to wash his feet:
Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair - Luke 7:44
The Bible records washing of the saint's feet being practiced by the early Orthodox Church in I Timothy 5:10 in reference to piety, submission and humility.

The Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches practice the ritual of the Washing of Feet on Holy and Great Thursday (Maundy Thursday) according to their ancient rites. The service may be performed either by a bishop, washing the feet of twelve priests; or by an Hegumen (Abbot) washing the feet of twelve members of the brotherhood of his monastery. The ceremony takes place at the end of the Divine Liturgy.

After Holy Communion, and before the dismissal, the brethren all go in procession to the place where the Washing of Feet is to take place (it may be in the center of the nave, in the narthex, or a location outside). After a psalm and some troparia (hymns) an ektenia (litany) is recited, and the bishop or abbot reads a prayer. Then the deacon reads the account in the Gospel of John, while the clergy perform the roles of Christ and his apostles as each action is chanted by the deacon. The deacon stops when the dialogue between Jesus and Peter begins. The senior-ranking clergyman among those whose feet are being washed speaks the words of Peter, and the bishop or abbot speaks the words of Jesus. Then the bishop or abbot himself concludes the reading of the Gospel, after which he says another prayer and sprinkles all of those present with the water that was used for the foot washing. The procession then returns to the church and the final dismissal is given as normal.

Foot washing rites are also observed in the Oriental Orthodox churches on Maundy Thursday.
In the Coptic Orthodox Church the service is performed by the parish priest, not just by a bishop or hegumen. He blesses the water for the foot washing with the cross, just as he would for blessing holy water and he washes the feet of the entire congregation.

In the Indian Orthodox or Malankara Orthodox Church, this service is performed only by a bishop. This is done most ceremoniously as the Bishop does this in the midst of the reading of the Scripture (Evangelion). There will be some 12 selected persons, both priests and the lay people, and the Bishop will wash and kiss the feet of those 12 persons. After this the eldest of the priest washes the Bishop's feet. It is not merely a dramatization of the past event. Further it is a prayer where the whole congregation prays to wash and cleanse them of their sins.

Many Baptists observe the literal washing of feet as a third ordinance. The communion and foot washing service is practiced regularly by members of the Separate Baptists in Christ, General Association of Baptists, Free Will Baptists, Primitive Baptists, Union Baptists, Old Regular Baptist, Christian Baptist Church of God, Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), Brethren in Christ,. Feet washing is also practiced as a third ordinance by many United Baptists, General Baptists, and Independent Baptists.


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