I refer the readership to some lucid and sober comments about the pedilavium, the foot washing, that can occur as an option in both uses of the Roman Rite.
Fr John Hunwicke makes some keen and, for liberals sobering, observations. I expunged his emphases and added my own emphases and comments:
PEDILAVIUM or FOOT WASHING: such a wealth of different meanings
The meaning of this rite, in the intention of the current Sovereign Pontiff, has been changed. I persist, against all the traddy shock-horror, in considering this No Big Deal. [This is a good approach, provided the Church’s laws are still being obey… which they are not in many places.] Firstly, a bit of History.
(1) The sense the Pedilavium appears (not invariably but) most commonly to have had in the pre-modern period was of humble service done by a superior (Bishop, Abbot) before his own subjects, and in the intimacy of their own close fellowship. Among the feet which Father Abbot washed were those of the young monk whom, perhaps, he had needed yesterday to discipline. His Lordship the Bishop did the same for a presbyter with whom … forfend the thought! … he may have had a less than cordial relationship. Perhaps an equivalent would be Papa Bergoglio washing the feet of curial cardinals including those who had disagreed with him in Synod or during their weekly audiences! [Now that would be a gesture that would mean something, especially after the way he lambasted the Curia for Christmas a year and more back. In any event, take note of the gesture’s element of condescension.]
[NB] The Lord did not, as people sometimes carelessly assert, “wash the feet of his disciples”, who were many; He washed the feet of a much more limited group, the Twelve. He did not wash the feet of the people who flocked to hear Him teach in the fields or on the Mountain or beside the Lake or in the village square, or even the feet of the Seventy He sent forth or of the women who ministered to Him; when He washed the feet of the Twelve, it was behind the closed doors of an exclusive Meeting arranged in almost 007-style secrecy. And the implication of S Peter’s words was that this had not been the Lord’s regular custom. [Take note of the gesture’s element of exclusivity. The Lord washed the feet of the elite Twelve, the “chosen”, and out of public view.]
It has been plausibly suggested that we might discern sacerdotal undertones when a bishop washes the feet of his presbyters; Anglicans will recall that Bubbles Stancliff, a liturgical dilettante who was bishop of Salisbury and who appears to have believed this, introduced the ceremony into Anglican ordination rites. [On the other hand, it is a fact that the High Priest washed the feet of his first sacerdotes.]
[This is good…] Washing the feet of a person with whom one has no relationship, no daily fellowship whether for better or for worse, empties the rite of this, historically (I think) its first, meaning. Unless a different meaning is devised, it becomes an empty, formalistic, ritual. [Interesting, no?]
(2) A second meaning of some historic pedilavium ceremonies was both the humility and the generosity of the great and the grand towards their social inferiors. Holy Condescension. This is the meaning which the rite had when it was used by sovereigns and by some bishops. Food, clothing, money would often be distributed. In the twentieth century, British monarchs restored the rite in this sense, but did not revive the actual footwashing. Specially minted pieces of archaic coinage are distributed. True, the Lord High Almoner still girds himself with a towel, but that is only because this is the sort of thing which the English, a strange race, deem to be ‘tradition’.
Meanings (1) and (2) both rest upon presuppositions of status and hierarchy. These are concepts now rather out of vogue. [Unless you are a liberal. Remember: they are the morally superior elitists par excellence.] Perhaps this is why the Holy Father has dreamed up a new and completely different understanding of the rite … inculturating it, so to speak, into post-modernity.
(3) This different and new meaning Papa Bergoglio now wishes to attach to the rite is the boundless love and Mercy of God to all, and not least to those on the peripheries of Society. This removes any overlaps with meanings (1) and (2) (and it is very far from what the closed and exclusive intimacy of the Last Supper suggests that the Lord had in mind). But, [PAY ATTENTION!] as long as we all understand that this new meaning has nothing whatsoever to do with S John’s Last Supper narrative or the Church’s ancient liturgical tradition, it seems to me a perfectly reasonable Acted Parable for an innovative Roman Pontiff to introduce and to encourage. No harm in a bit of imagination!! [So, perhaps the pedilavium should be developed into an entirely separate Holy Thursday rite, outside of Mass, especially the Holy Thursday Mass.]
Since the Pedilavium is, in historical terms, a very recent and completely optional importation into the Liturgy of a ceremony which (where it was done at all) used to be extra-liturgical and took varying forms, I cannot see why any Roman Pontiff, or, for that matter, any junior curate, should not be entitled to juggle around with it, and to give it whatever new meaning or meanings he chooses to suit his own specific social context. [Yep. As long as it isn’t during Holy Thursday Mass.] (Whether Maundy Thursday, a congested Day on which liturgically quite a lot already happens, is the most apt time for such performances, I very much doubt. Here, I have a constructive suggestion to make: see, below, my penultimate paragraph.)
Read the rest over there. It gets good.
So… remove it entirely from Mass and then … let a hundred flowers blossom! Let a hundred schools of thought… make up stuff.
Meanwhile, this ludicrous scene was spotted on Facebook and sent to me.
I don’t know what this is, but it isn’t the liturgy of the Catholic Church.