What a sight to behold people washing one another’s feet on Maundy Thursday. It is an odd and potentially embarrassing sort of gesture. Every year, in fact, the prospect of having the foot washing makes me more than a little anxious, but I would never think of abandoning this ritual. It is a practice through which God touches us, surprises us, and shows us something of the power of Gospel love. WAY sponsors and candidates washed each other’s feet, as well as children and parents, friends and strangers. As I witnessed these things, my tears began to well up.
On Good Friday, the wooden cross is brought into the assembly and that is followed by a time for members of the assembly to approach the cross, reverence it, light candles, and pray. It was a wonder to behold all kinds of people coming together at the foot of the cross. More than once, I felt I was seeing a preview of how the world will one day be.
How can one choose just one moment at the Easter Vigil? There are so many. Here’s just one: the cantor chanted the ancient and beautiful Easter proclamation and the assembly responded, “This is the Night.” Then the children led us in a song that further extolled the light provided by the Paschal Candle. At the last acclamation of “the light of Christ,” everyone raised their individual candle. I felt this was an act paying homage to Christ who dispels all darkness.
So many sights, sounds, actions, and gestures. One of the reasons the church now celebrates the 50 days of Easter is that it takes at least that long to unpack these sacred moments from the Three Days. The ancient term, “mystagogy” refers to the practice of unpacking the mysteries. That is what we will do in the WAY, in formation groups, and most of all in Sunday worship.
As I reflect on the aforementioned moments, I glimpse the reign of God in action: washing one another’s’ feet as the holy alternative to competing with your neighbor; people discovering their common identity around the self-emptying love of the crucified one as an alternative to finding identity around a cause; and worshiping the one whose kingdom is antithetical to the kingdoms of empire.
These moments, for me, revealed something of the nature of Jesus and the reign of God. Now, as we celebrate these great 50 days of Easter, I wonder how these marks of the Kingdom will shape our praying and living.
Alleluia! Christ is risen. Christ is risen indeed!