Maundy Thursday and Holy Week

Maundy Thursday and Holy Week

Foot Washing:

Who would not wash the feet  of the other

or pour the precious oil

If we knew.

If we had the chance to take holy water,

Splash it over worn soles

Rub them and Towel them dry.

If we had the chance to show our love

Kneeling at the foot of

Holiness in the Other.

Would we not rush to the


And break open the jar of holy ointment

 and pour. 

The Anointing: “Leave her alone! She bought it (the ointment)  for my burial.”

We learned somehow along the way that we are buried with Christ in his death and we rise with Him through the waters of His baptism.  The life of the parish priest is a constant peeling away at what it means to bring the oils of baptism, healing and unction into the hospital room and the sick bed. The anointing of Jesus feet before his crucifixion by his old friend Mary evokes these experiences from a long priesthood.

Rosemary and Her Baby

Rosemary and I would run up the stairs from Sunday school to the parish hall. We’d slow down enough to reverently (almost) enter the church for the end of the Service. The stained glass window of a black Madonna and another of the Ascension intrigued.

Twenty years passed and Rosemary and her husband had a baby boy and came to me to baptize him. The baptism was delayed due to minor surgery for Rosemary and a slight stroke for her mother. Rosemary left her son with her mother who, it seemed, had recovered enough to watch the child. The boy was using a walker now, one of those round trays on wheels that let the boy scurry around the kitchen like a “ball o’ fire”. That day the harness that held the boy slipped and his neck was caught on the tray and he suffocated.

Rosemary and her husband called me. The child was in the Emergency Room. Please come. They wanted me to baptize the baby. I grabbed oils and a prayer book and rushed to the hospital. The male nurse brought a wash basin with water. I blessed the water and immersed the child. “Robert I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” I took the body in my arms and poured the blessed oil on his forehead. I made the sign of the cross and said: “Robert, I anoint you with this holy oil.  You are marked as a child of God and Christ’s own forever.”   He was also anointed with our tears.

Richard and His his beloved.

The gay man said, “You don’t know me.,You’ve never asked anything about me.”  Surprised, I recognized the truth of what he was saying.  I said.” Well, let’s get together next week for lunch. I’ll come to where you work.”  He had been active in many activities around the cathedral. We spent hour’s together working in the garden. Except for a short greeting, we had not spoken. Not once. I was embarrassed.

At lunch he told me some of his story: “I was in a long relationship with my lover when he contracted full blown AIDS. We were very close. Our lives were as entwined and sacred as any other marriage. His health quickly deteriorated. I spent the hours I wasn’t at work caring for him.  His family abandoned him. I was the only one he had. I’d feed him, make sure he took his medication, cook the meals he could eat and keep down. I’d clean him up, like a baby; toward the end he was totally helpless. His sores I’d anoint with salves and oils.”

“She bought the ointment for my burial.” Such great loves break our hearts and crack us open.

Born on St. Patty’s Day:

My dear friend was dying. He’d been moved to the hospice floor of the hospital, hovered over by nursing and medical staff who loved him as much as we did. Gene Logan was one of the great-souled ones. a contemporary Mahatma. He loved life and the life was, now rapidly, draining away. Jean, my wife, and I had to go away for a day and we were afraid he might not make it before we returned. Early in the morning we went to see him. Jean lifted the covers off his feet and began the rub them. A smile spread across his groggy and drugged face. Awake now I continued to joke with him. I desired on last story from my friend, to hold on to him with a laugh , instead of sorrow. What better time for a chuckle. “Gene,” I contended, “You say you’re Irish, but your mother was German, How’s that?” ”Well”, he replied affecting an Irish brogue, “Me sainted mother said that because I was born on St. Patty’s Day, I was doubly Irish.”

He was a great story teller, stories that came out the streets of Brooklyn in a family of eight, years in the Navy, and raising a family. Jean and I gathered at his side; we held his hand, gave him communion and anointed him. Jean. My wife rubbed his bare feet. He sighed with delight. Before we left Jean opened a chocolate candy bar and gave him a piece. Another smile enveloped his face. It looked as if he was tasting chocolate for the first —and last time.

Then we left, Jean making sure she left the rest of the bar to eat after our departure.

When Sally, Gene’s wife, arrived an hour later, Gene was now peacefully asleep. Tell tale brown covered his lips, hands and face. She was afraid something terrible had happened to him in the night.  She soon discovered that we were the culprits.

He lasted another forty-eight hours. We were there with him and his family as the breath left him.

Happy St Patty’s Day, Gene. and Happy Birthday.

Foot Washing:

Who would not wash the foot of the other

or pour the holy oil…

If we knew.

If we had the chance to take holy water, and Nard

and lavish it

Pour it over worn soles

and spend it without

thought of cost.

Rub them and Towel them dry.

If we had the chance to show our love

Kneeling at the foot of

Holiness in the Other.

Would we not rush to the


and break the vessel and pour.

Wouldn’t we love the beloved if we had been there?

5 thoughts on “Maundy Thursday and Holy Week

  1. Thank You!

  2. Wow! Very touching……..Thank you!!

  3. Did you write the poem? If not where did you find it?

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