Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Lenten Mercy~Meditation: But Also The Footwashing

The Washing of the Feet ~ Jacopo Tintoretto

Tintoretto painted the Last Supper six times. Here he has depicted Jesus washing the feet of the apostles.  In the middle of the meal Jesus got up from the table, took off his outer robe and began to wash the feet of the twelve. We see that outer robe awkwardly placed over a wooden box in the foreground. 

It is said that there should have been someone to offer that customary act of foot-washing hospitality, but either the apostles were too poor to pay a slave, or they just didn't get around to it. At any rate, perhaps in Jesus washing all those feet himself, he's saying to the apostles, "You know what, if no one showed up to do the footwashing job, you should have done it for each other. Haven't you learned anything? Now look, this is how it's done." 

Tintoretto has shown us the scene in great intimacy: the room is smaller, the figures are close and Jesus is at the very center of the action. Oh that we would always keep Jesus at the center! Then people would come running! The twelve apostles are present: one is drying his foot on the right, two are taking in the warmth of the fireplace (perhaps discussing what Jesus had just done for them), one is holding a tall candle on the far left. Still others look on as Peter debates with Jesus whether this is really necessary. A mysterious figure above Peter's shoulder is entering the room through a curtain. Maybe a late-comer.

But what does it all mean? On the night of the Last Supper the  bread and the wine were changed. But there is more! We're changed too! With the foot washing, all the I'm-better-than-you-distinctions are washed away. Nothing can ever be the same: married-single, cleric-lay, Christian-Jew-Muslim, rich-poor, gay-straight, black-white, American-Iraqi-Saudi-Iranian, educated-uneducated. All gone! Truth be told, this is galling to not a few Christians.

And just to be sure we really understand this and aren't just making it up - the gospel is most clear: along with John, the friend who rested his head on Jesus and would stay faithful to the end, and Peter, who we call the first pope, Judas, who would betray Jesus that same night, had his feet washed too. No distinctions!


  1. Jesus made no distinction between the poor, the sick, or foreigners. Over time we have lost sight of this message.

  2. The I am better than you attitude has gotten mankind into trouble all along. That black people should be slaves, or that Jews should be eliminated, or that girl babies should be killed place one person higher or lower in status. The poor are equal to the rich. A male is equal to a female. The color of one's skin makes no difference as to what is on the inside. A straight person isn't normal compared to a homosexual person. I think your message here is wonderful Father. I took this from the foot washing reading before. A nice presentation of Jesus' love and acceptance of all of us.

  3. No distinctions! Hmm... That's one to be aware of today. Good thought. Thanks.

  4. Great painting and lovely poem yesterday. I am getting a cultural and spiritual education here. Growing in multiple directions.

    1. May the Lord bring to completion the good begun in you.

  5. This post really got to me. I thought about it all day. If someone would ask me, I would think of myself as being someone who doesn't judge a book by its cover. As someone who would get to know someone before judging them or thinking that I am better than them. But I admit that I do have preconceptions of people who are not like myself that I fight against. I will use this post as a reminder to think of others as I think of my family, without distinctions.