Humble Servanthood: Jesus Washing the Disciples’ Feet

a chalk and grisaille on paper by Edelfelt from www.turnbacktogod.com

a chalk and grisaille on paper by Edelfelt from http://www.turnbacktogod.com

After his ‘triumphal entry’ to Jerusalem seated on a donkey’s colt Jesus predicts his death.

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds.  The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be.  My Father will honor the one who serves me.  Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say?  ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name!”  

Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.”  The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said and angel had spoken to him.”   John 12: 23-29

Now Jesus and his chosen few withdraw to an upper room in Jerusalem to partake in the Passover Feast.   Here he institutes the “Memorial” of the Eucharist:

“After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you.  For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  In the same way , after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”  Mt.26: 26-29, Mk.14: 22-25, Lk.22: 17-20.

He then makes hints of being betrayed by one of them at the table and they question each other who it might be.

It seems absurd, amidst this setting, but it is presumed due to Jesus’ indication that the coming of his ‘kingdom’ is imminent, some of the apostles begin to discuss which of them is the greatest.  How can this be?  After walking with Jesus throughout his ministry, listening to his teaching regarding the nature of this ‘kingdom’, how can they not understand?

Of course, now, this is so easy from my current perspective.   I am not being persecuted under the power of the Roman Empire longing for a new ‘earthly kingdom.’  So what does Jesus do?  He begins to wash the feet of his disciples.

Painting by Ford Madox Brown 1865; from www.turnbacktogod.com

Painting by Ford Madox Brown 1865; from http://www.turnbacktogod.com

“A dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be the greatest.  Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.  But you are not to be like that.  Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves?  Is it not the one who is at the table?  But I am among you as one who serves.  You are those who stood by me in my trials.  And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  Lk.22: 24-30

a painting of Jesus washing feet at Last Supper; from www.turnbacktogod.com

a painting of Jesus washing feet at Last Supper; from http://www.turnbacktogod.com

“Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.  The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.  Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”

“He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”  Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”  “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”  Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”  Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean.  And you are clean, though not every one of you.”  For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.”

“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place.  “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.  “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  Jn.13: 1-17

I can only wonder how long before the disciples fully discerned the incredible intensity of Jesus’ love for them and the nature of his humility toward them.  He, their Lord and Teacher stooped to serve their needs, and they (we) should do the same for one another.  This example of humility in servanthood is what we “followers of Jesus” are to show one another.  I find this very convicting.  Our western culture is so ‘me first’ oriented that I will truly need an extra measure of grace to not walk in the path of least resistance.

A contemporary painting of Jesus washing feet; from 'Words of Life-shadowlilies.wordpress'

A contemporary painting of Jesus washing feet; from ‘Words of Life-shadowlilies.wordpress’

The sovereignty of Christ from the cross is a new sovereignty.  It has destroyed forever the formula that might is right.  It has put to shame the self-assertion of false heroism.  It has surrounded with imperishable dignity the completeness of sacrifice.  It has made clear to the pure heart that the prerogative of authority is wider service.  The divine King rules forever by dying.       Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901)

My dear Jesus, Lord and Teacher, this example of humility and service … preceding the ultimate humiliation of the “Way of Suffering” …. crucified for all humanity … Even though you possessed the very nature of God, you claimed nothing for Your own advantage but emptied yourself taking the form of a slave.  Thank you for coming to serve and giving your life as a ransom for many.  I fear that I am too self-centered and selfish.  Help me to become more like you.  Show me how to humbly wash the feet of my brothers and sisters, bringing glory to the Son of Man.    Amen

 

 

 

The Cathedral of Assisi

The Chiesa di San Rufino is the Duomo or the Cathedral of Assisi.  The cathedral is the seat of the local bishop.  Rufino was Assisi’s first bishop, it’s Patron Saint, and was martyred and buried here in the third century.  It was inspirational to be in the same church where St. Francis and St. Clare were baptized.  It was also the bishop blessed Francis’ “spiritual awakening.”  It is still the official baptismal site for the village of Assisi.

The Romanesque facade is believed to have been completed in the early 13th century.  The interior is Neoclassical.  It was beautifully restored after a 1997 earthquake.

The facade is divided vertically into three sections and horizontally into three stories with a row of blind arches between the the first two.  All three portals are richly sculpted with red marble relief in the lunettes and geometric designs and figures around the entries.

Two lions stand guard at the central portal, with one eating a Christian martyr and the other clutching a ram in its claws.

Over the central portal the red marble relief depicts Christ enthroned beneath the moon and a star, with the Madonna del Latte to the left and St. Rufinus to the right.

The central rosette shows symbols of the Evangelists surrounding the intricate rose which is supported by three extraordinary figures standing on unidentifiable animals.

As I entered the rear of the church my eyes were immediately drawn to the two fine statues of St. Francis and St. Clare by Giovanni Dupre in 1888.

artistically edited due to poor lighting to an ‘antique’ style

artistically edited due to poor lighting to an ‘antique’ style

The next attraction was actually the floor.  Large glass panels exposed parts of the ninth century foundation.  Apparently after the 1997 earthquake inspectors discovered graves under the paving stones.  It was a common practice to bury people in the churches.  I have seen this in ancient Scandinavian churches as well.  It is also likely that this church was built upon old Roman temple ruins.  A cistern is also visible from the rear of the church.  The Diocesan museum is underneath the church as part of the foundation of the early church of San Rufino where the saint’s sarcophagus and ancient art can be seen.

The floor also displayed large red marble reliefs, one with the Franciscan Tau and the other with “abba Father.”

The baptismal font has a black iron gate around it and a terracotta cover over it (installed in 1882).  It is here in the San Rufino that Francis was baptized circa 1181 and Clare was baptized in 1194.  Eighteen years later it was here that Clare heard Francis teach and decided to dedicate her life to following Jesus.  Emperor Frederick II is believed to have been baptized here in the early 1190s.

Above the entrance to the chapel to the right stands a fresco by Giovanni Andrea Carlone, The Sacrifice of Elijah.  It depicts the contest between the prophets of Baal and Elijah.  Each prepared to sacrifice a bull and called on God to light the fire.  Elijah’s prayer was answered the prophet of Baal was not.  The people consequently returned to the one and only true living God and killed the prophets who had attempted to lead them astray.

There is also a beautiful Processional banner from the early 16th century which is variously attributed to Berto de Giovanni or Dono Doni and was incorporated as the altarpiece of the  Altare di San Giuseppe in San Rufino in 1670.  It depicts St. Joseph showing the Virgin’s wedding ring to an audience of kneeling men and women with a landscape of Assisi behind.

The predella (the base of the alterpiece) contains three panels depicting the Holy Family with SS Antony of Padua (on the left) and Bernardino of Siena (on the right) by Dono Doni.

The slide show has photos of Pope John Paul II and of the rose window looking from the inside with filters to appreciate the detail.

As always, with any visit to an inspirational setting such as the Chiesa di San Rufino, all the photos in the world can not capture the “Holy Spirit’s” touch on my heart or soul when sitting in this cathedral … all alone … in absolute silence.  I can hear Him “calling me” … “Come follow me.”

I can only answer with the simple prayer … Here I am Lord.  Show me how.  I am willing.  Help me stay on your path.