Vatican Radio REPORT: The Washing of the Feet, or Mandatum, is an integral part of the Holy Thursday liturgy, the Missa in Coena Domini, or Mass of Our Lord’s Supper, which opens the East erTriduum
The Washing of the Feet is a sign of service. Or as Pope Francis told about 40 young detainees gathered around him for Mass in an inner city detention center, it is “Christ’s caress, because Jesus came just for this, to serve us, to help us”.
On Thursday evening as the sun set over a rain washed Rome, Pope Francis crossed the Tiber River bound for the city’s juvenile prison, Casal del Marmo, which roughly translated into English reads, ‘Marble Home’.
There in a tiny simple chapel among the young offenders, he celebrated Mass of Our Lords Supper and the beginning of the Easter Triduum. Two young men read the first reading and the responsorial psalm, a female volunteer read the second reading while the prison chaplain recited the Gospel, John Chapter 13.
Without any pause for introduction, Pope Francis immediately picked up from the very last words of the passage that recounts the Mandatum or Washing of the Feet.
Below we publish a Vatican Radio transcript and translation of the Holy Father’s unscripted homily, at Mass for Our Lord’s Supper, Casal del Marmo, Holy Thursday 28th March 2013.
“This is moving, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. Peter understands nothing. He refuses but Jesus explains to him. Jesus, God did this, and He Himself explains it to the disciples.. ‘Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do’.
It is the example set by Our Lord, it’s important for Him to wash their feet, because among us the one who is highest up must be at the service of others. This is a symbol, it is a sign – washing your feet means I am at your service. And we are too, among each other, but we don’t have to wash each other’s feet each day. So what does this mean? That we have to help each other…sometimes I would get angry with one someone, but we must let it go and if they ask a favor of do it!
Help one another. This is what Jesus teaches us. This is what I do. And I do it with my heart. I do this with my heart because it is my duty, as a priest and bishop I must be at your service. But it is a duty that comes from my heart and a duty I love. I love doing it because this is what the Lord has taught me. But you too must help us and help each other, always. And thus in helping each other we will do good for each other.
Now we will perform the ceremony of the Washing of the Feet and we must each one of us think, Am I really willing to help others? Just think of that. Think that this sign is Christ’s caress, because Jesus came just for this, to serve us, to help us”.