Journeying 4: Maundy Thursday

In my journey leading up to today, I have been thinking and writing about Maundy Thursday, foot washing, and justice (you can read that post from my Cultivating Sacred Space series here). This morning, I pondered whose feet I would wash today. I decided it would be the feet of the nursing assistants and personal care aides with whom I have worked over the years. They are constantly walking, moving, lifting, supporting. They rarely are formally recognized; they are almost always underpaid for the nature of the work that they do. I wish I could wash their feet, and probably give them a well-deserved pedicure, too.

As I was thinking about this and browsing online, I found another poem for Maundy Thursday that moved me. As I read it, I began to think of the hands I have held, and the hands that have reached out to help me. I thought of my Gramma’s calloused, weathered farm hands showing me how to cook, to milk a cow, to heal my scratches and scrapes. I thought of her hands when I last held them, and how my hands have held other hands, companioning through touch the last moments of life. I thought about the hands that cradle children, the hands of those I know who guide children through birth to life. Hands that care, that toil, that touch, that hide secrets and cover wounds, hands that are broken, and hands that heal. In my mind and in my heart, I hold these hands and wash them tonight, this Holy Thursday:

wash my hands

by Lucy Nanson

Wash my hands on Maundy Thursday,
not my feet
My hands peel potatoes, wipe messes from the floor
change dirty nappies, clean the grease from pots and pans
have pointed in anger and pushed away in tears
in years past they’ve smacked a child and raised a fist
fumbled with nervousness, shaken with fear
I’ve wrung them when waiting for news to come
crushed a letter I’d rather forget
covered my mouth when I’ve been caught out
touched forbidden things, childhood memories do not grow dim
These hands have dug gardens, planted seeds
picked fruit and berries, weeded out and pruned trees
found bleeding from the rose’s thorns
dirt and blood mix together
when washed before a cup of tea
Love expressed by them
asks for your respect
in the hand-shake of warm greeting,
the gentle rubbing of a child’s bump
the caressing of a lover, the softness of a baby’s cheek
sounds of music played by them in tunes upon a flute
they’ve held a frightened teenager,
touched a father in his death
where cold skin tells the end of life has come
but not the end of love,
comforted a mother losing agility and health.
With my hands outstretched before you
I stand humbled and in awe
your gentle washing in water, the softness of the towel
symbolizing a cleansing
the servant-hood of Christ.
Wash my hands on Maundy Thursday
and not my feet.

~Lucy Nanson is a New Zealand Anchorite

About harasprice

Professor of Social Work and Priest in The Episcopal Church, parent, teacher, learner, writer, advocate, and grateful traveller along this journey through life
This entry was posted in Lent 2014 and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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