Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 35:7-14

To be read: March 13, July 13, November 13

Whoever is completing their weekly service will do the cleaning on Saturday.  8Let him wash the towels which the brothers used to wipe their hands and feet. 9Both the one completing his service and the one about to begin are to wash the feet of all.  10Let the one completing his service return the utensils of the kitchen to the Cellarer clean and whole, 11and the Cellarer shall give those to the one beginning his week.  In this way he may know what he distributes and what he receives back.  12An hour before mealtime let each of the weekly servers receive a cup of drink and a piece of bread above the prescribed portion, 13so that they may serve their brethren at the mealtime without murmuring or undue strain. 14On solemn feast days, however, let them abstain until after Mass. 

“Both the one completing his service and the one about to begin are to wash the feet of all.”  Every major denomination practices foot washing, usually on Maundy Thursday, or some other time during Holy Week.  And there are certain denominations (e.g. Adventists, Anabaptists, Free Will Baptists, and various Pentecostal groups) which do foot washing more often, and who refer to foot washing as “the third ordinance” after Baptism and Holy Communion.  Sadly, and ironically, though, running battles are often fought between denominations about these services of servanthood.  Jesus prayed “that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in me, and I in You, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that You have sent me” (John 17:21).  But we, to our shame, focus on what divides us, rather than the Christ Who unites us.  And all the while the world stands by watching, waiting “with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19).  These doctrinal battles are not how we are to “serve” one another in the manner of Christ.  

Benedict had seen the corruption and divisions in the Church, and wanted no part of them.  But he even more desperately wanted to see the healing work of Christ manifested in the Body.  That healing, he knew, could only come about through humility and service in the manner of Christ.  To wash another’s feet is a vivid representation of Christ’s love and humble service to a brother or sister.  And it takes a certain level of humility to let someone wash your feet.  Foot washing then, for Benedict, is an outward sign of humility and piety on the part of the one washing and the one being washed.  It is an example, given to us by our Lord Jesus, of humble service.  Jesus told His disciples, on the night before He was betrayed, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15).  

For those of us on the outside, and in a denomination which commonly practices foot washing at most once a year, what relevance does this have to our daily walk with Christ in obedience to the Rule of St. Benedict?  As was noted yesterday, we don’t have kitchen servers, readers at meals, etc., so how does this apply?  This chapter is about service—serving one another as if we were serving in the manner of Christ, and as if serving Christ Himself in the other.  And so, like Jesus, we should be in the midst of the community as one who serves, making every effort to put the other’s needs first.  Every type of service, whether it be as simple as giving another preference in line, visiting the sick and shut-in, or donating a kidney to one who needs a transplant, is a following of the Lord who washed the feet of His disciples.

One thought on “Daily Meditations on the Rule of Saint Benedict: Chapter 35:7-14

  1. Well said Father Bill. Far too often we are tempted to fall back on the worldly cop-out of, “what can I do?” instead of looking for that little act of service that we CAN do. It is not the big things that make an impact in a person’s life. It is those “tiny” acts offered in the love of our Messiah that impact lives. Thanks for reminding me.

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