On Holy Thursday night and Good Friday morning social media was full of pictures of the foot washing ceremony in churches. In so many pictures only one foot per person was being washed. Who ever washes one foot without the other? This meagre-ing of the symbol makes it almost comical. This gesture of service is halved. This symbol of the depth of Christ’s love becomes measured, counted, and token.
I notice how perfectly this mirrors the other Last Supper action of Eucharist. In so many churches in Ireland and elsewhere, when Holy Communion is distributed only the Eucharistic bread is shared. The presider and the Eucharistic ministers – ironically those responsible for feeding the people – keep the wine for themselves. We, the Faithful, taste only the bread of the everyday, and not the wine of the festival. Sometimes it is deemed that we do not have enough time to share the cup – sometimes that we don’t have enough money to pay for it. Either way – a theology and praxis of paucity is enacted in the celebration of magnificent generosity and gracious gift.
The Good Friday liturgy is an invitation to people to place their suffering and the suffering of the world at the cross of Jesus. Let people see it. Let them touch it. Give them time. The Easter fire is the main focus of the Christian announcement of resurrection – have a roaring one which crackles and gives out proper heat which people can gather around and hear and smell. Let it still be going when they come out after the Vigil Mass. Let the children’s group make an Easter garden; decorate the font; give the children Easter goodies; after the dawn service provide a mighty breakfast so that many of them are still making rounds of tea and cementing friendships hours later.
A little emphasised part of the Holy Week story is the anointing of Jesus by a woman. She pours a costly ointment on the head of Jesus. Bystanders complain at the waste but Jesus says:
“Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for me. For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her. (Mtt 14: 3-9)
In memory of her and her generosity let us waste time and money on the Lord and one another. Let us keep our cutbacks for other times and seasons.
Our God is extravagant. This is the God of the paschal mystery. The God who brings life in abundance. The God who did not spare or hold back his son. In our celebrations, especially those to which we welcome occasional attenders, let’s not obscure and misrepresent this God by giving people an experience of a minimal God who measures and preserves. Instead let us celebrate with the ‘full measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over…’ (Luke 6:38)