Eucharist a ‘family affair’: Rector in historic washing of feet of six married couples
KOTA KINABALU: The Holy Thursday service at the St Simon Church Likas parish saw a historic washing of feet ceremony that for the first time included women on March 24.
Recently Pope Francis allowed the option to include women in the ceremony, parish rector Fr Cosmas Lee announced in his homily (to the pleasant surprise of many of the faithful) that he would be washing the feet of six married couples.
“We have six couples here for the washing of feet this evening, since Pope Francis has allowed women – we have compromised, we have asked six married couples to be here.”
One of the women was so overcome with emotion that her husband had to put a reassuring hand on her thigh as Fr Cosmas stooped low to wash her feet in “humble service”, as he put it in his homily concerning the Eucharist.
In addressing the large crowd that evening, the rector talked about the importance of the Sacrament of Marriage and the institution of the Eucharist:
“God continues to constitute the world by calling a man and a woman to love as He loves, to enter into marriage, to found a family and make that family the source, the cradle, the school of His loving mercy.
“It is from the family that the glorious mercy and love of God spread round and conquer the world.
“If there is less mercy and love, consequently less peace. And probably the family has fallen short. Nobody, more than a husband and a wife, is called by God to love perfectly like God. It is not possible to enter into Christian marriage without mercy. Mercy first from God but mercy must continue in the Sacrament of Marriage to be mutually given and received by man and wife.
“The Eucharist is always a family meal. At the Last Supper, the Lord did not invite strangers. He called His very own – the 12 chosen apostles. It was truly a family affair. It is to this, of His own, that Jesus gave His life and promised His resurrection by instituting the Eucharist in that Last Supper.
“Since then, the family of God must always come together to eat together, to celebrate the Holy Mass at least once every Sunday because it is from this table of the Lord’s body and blood that the family of God is nourished by His mercy. And it is around this table of the mercy of God that we learn to be charitable – to love and to be merciful always, beginning with husbands and wives; fathers and mothers; brothers and sisters in the family.
“In the family, when we eat, if we still do, it is a sacred time of the day.
“The family that eats and takes time to eat together will stay together. Because every meal in the family is an extension of the Eucharistic meal we celebrate on Sunday.
“We wait on each other. We do not commit the crime of being late.We come together, we start together, with a prayer. So that whatever words and whatever happens during the meal will be dominated by God’s charity, love and mercy. The family meal for ages had been considered sacred – during makan (meal) time you don’t argue. That’s why we start with a prayer
“So the whole family comes together to eat, being nourished by the bread, rice and food – signs of the whole family sacrifice, the fruit of their labour. And being nourished to obtain life in that meal together. We are nourished not just by the physical food, we’re nourished by what we say, communicate and converse in the meal, all in charity.
“It is in the family meal, which is better than your handphone, where real communication takes place – where we talk about who we are, what we stand for. What are our plans, what’s our place, as Christian family in the society.
“We’re gathered once more, very solemnly this evening, because we celebrate not just the Eucharist but the mercy of God in instituting the Eucharist, that we may always be with Him and He with us. Where He is, there will always be charity and love.
“I hope the husbands and wives will wash each other’s feet and I hope that the family will seriously consider to eat more often together. When you eat, remember that it is a continuation of the Holy Mass you celebrate.
“There are many things we have said about the readings – from Exodus we hear definitely that the Passover meal (the Eucharist fulfilled) was a family meal, at which the family is saved by the blood of the very animal that they eat. It is that meal that we must hasten on, with our sandals on and staff in our hand, ready to move on from death to Life; from less darkness to greater Light.
“St Paul, in giving us the earliest account of the Eucharist from first Corinthians, tells us of this sacred traditio – this sacred handing down – from one generation to the next ‘as I have received from the Lord, I will pass it on to you’. Will you pass on the Eucharist to your family? Particularly when you eat together, pray together, converse (talk about yourselves) together?
“And finally, in the Gospel, Jesus translated for us concretely what does it mean to celebrate the Last Supper (the Eucharist). It means humble service,” he said at the end of his sermon.