foot washing – love in the time of corona virus

“The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love.”  [G. García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera]

Perhaps you have visited one of the many salons to get your ‘feet done’ – a relaxing feet massage and pedicure, the full works. The essentials always interest me – latex gloves, curiously shaped nail clippers, sanding tools, lotion, soap, salt-looking sort of grit, foot basins, towels, fragrant incense etc. Then there are the conversations, perhaps one you are invited into or such just among others. The whole environment is not merely about getting your feet done. The set up makes one feel good. I always feel good afterwards and would often promise to make it regular, yet often failing to do so. I am always amazed with the speed, the strength of hands, the care and seriousness with which the masseurs (often of some migrant background) carry out their work.

Have you ever thought of the link between the foot-washing Maundy Thursday ritual with that of the service of these modern-day feet masseurs? Perhaps, the Mennonite or the Anabaptists were on to something in their insistence that this act of embodied love should be a regular ritual, rather than a ‘once in a blue-moon’ one. And, would it be way out to consider whether the washing of feet in the first century included a bit of a foot massage? I’m not sure we know the answer to that. I can envision though that just rubbing the dusty feet of a weary traveller (especially where sandals were the chief footwear) even a bit would have been going, at the very least, that extra mile of service. Today, there are some local churches that open their spaces for such (pedi)care – putting the gospel into practice through intimacy. Think of what this may mean for a lonely or a homeless person. Can you hear their joy? ‘You know, nobody ever touches me. I was thinking I was untouchable.’

In it not incidental that this ‘foot-washing’ account follows that of the other one – the perfume anointing of Jesus’ feet. Can you still smell the discomfort, the practical messiness, the surprise and fragrance of the act? In this infectious or viral time when not touching (intimacy) and distancing (social), are the operative mandate for collective and common life, when strict physical boundaries of social existence are enforced and policing public spaces and by extension human relationships, what does it mean to think of touch, as touch from others and from touching others or washing feet from the perspective of our faith? How can we make touch, and washing feet a habit for holiness and release from so much that restrict us (not only at this time)?

The relationship Jesus calls us into walkers of his way of full life for all is not a relationship of quick smiles and firm handshakes, elbow or feet bumping or hugs. It is a relationship of foot-washing. A relationship of intimate touch. Christ calls us to love one another as he loved us. And how he loved us is washing our feet. As our spaces of communal worship continue to remain shut in time of coronavirus, may our hearts remain open and embracing remembering those caring and nursing the many who are unwell. May their touch and their presence of intimacy bring peace, healing and hope.

an act of love: Whether you are alone or are at home as a family: why not consider a simple act of foot-washing/massage, mindful of all the necessary precautions….

 “A loveless world is a dead world.” [Albert Camus, The Plague]

© caribleaper April 2020

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