The best holidays are the ones that linger like a sweet perfume on an old sweater. Even after days of hanging in the closet the scent and all the memories it congers cling to your heart, awakening joy within.
Last week was Holy Week and I’m still taking the sweater out of the closet to breathe in the sweet fragrance.
There are rituals of Holy Week that I love and that offer depth, insight and connection to my relationship with God, an awakening to my relationships with others.
I call Holy Thursday, “Foot Washing Thursday.” My little family and I go to our small Catholic Church where we gather with others to celebrate the first of the Holy Days. Basins of fresh water, piles of white towels, pitchers of more water to refill are set up at stations.
I remember last year watching my son’s small hands wash his daddy’s feet. Awkward, unsure at first what this was all about, what exactly was he supposed to be doing. A simple act, yet intimate and personal, washing of another’s feet, witnessing their vulnerability, their imperfections. Offering tenderness, our own vulnerability and receiving generosity, grace.
My husband, not comfortable with this sort of thing, was relaxed under the care of his son’s hands. Tiny hands rubbing the calloused heels of the man who loves him so much. If it were someone else lined up to wash his feet, my husband would have stayed in the pew.
This year my son whispered to me in line, waiting our turn for the wash basin, Can I wash sister’s feet?
I immediately stepped behind my son, so he was standing behind sister. Inside I was beaming. Ten minutes earlier they were on each other’s nerves and I had to position myself between them in the pew.
When it was our turn to walk up to the alter to an open station Simon’s hands, now bigger than last year, washed Margaret’s soft feet with all the love a younger brother has for an older sister. I knelt beside him, offering a towel.
Mama, you’re crying, he said, taking the towel from me and drying sister’s feet.
Oh, yes I was crying, but it was the sweet, salty tasting tears that linger even after you wash your face and put away the Easter decorations.
by J.G. McGlothern