The meaning of foot washing

MandatumOn Holy Thursday it is tradition and part of the evening’s liturgy to celebrate the washing of feet – known as the Mandatum. The name comes from John 13:34 (Latin,Vulgate) – “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos.” “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Throughout the Christian era the meaning of the foot washing has been understood as a symbol of the self-sacrificing and humble service expected of disciples. But if one attends to the text, there are two verses that should give one pause. In v.8 Jesus clearly tells Peter “Unless I wash [nipsēs] you, you will have no inheritance with me.” In addition, there is v.10: “Whoever has bathed [leloumenos] has no need except to have his feet washed [nipsasthai], for he is clean all over…”

Continue reading