Thursday, March 28, 2013

Holy Thursday

First of all, there's this story.  Watching Pope Francis is going to be interesting, if he's already doing stuff like this.  I absolutely loved this.  No, I will not spoil it for you.  Go read it yourself.  I'm not Catholic, but this man gives me hope.

Second, Large came home from school with a "Peeps S'mores" kit: two graham cracker halves, a small Hershey bar, and a yellow Peeps bunny.  She gave me the Peeps bunny.  "I know you like them.  I want you to have it," she told me.  Cue melting heart.

Third, PSC had a Holy Thursday service this year.  Last year, we didn't, since we were hosting the community Good Friday service the following night.  This being our second Easter at PSC, there were a few traditions we were unaware the fact that there would be a completely voluntary foot-washing ceremony during the service.

I had kind of opted not to do that, on the one hand because I would be trying to corral my kids, and on the other because it's been cold and damp and both my right wrist and right ankle have been growling at me today.  Plus, I managed to forget my cane.

Large Fry was mad because we'd caught her in a lie before we left the house and she knew it, so she grumped into the church and slouched into the end of the last pew.  Medium wanted to sit with a couple of older girls (by older, I mean about 9), and Small went to go sit with PeeJay's wife.  Large continued to sulk at the other end of my pew.  About five minutes from the end of PeeJay's short message, Medium left her friends and came to sit with me.

She was dubious about the whole foot-washing thing as PeeJay described what would happen...but her innate curiosity got the better of her as people filed out to the respective rooms where the foot-washing would happen (we divide up with the men in one room, the ladies in another).

Okay then.  She was curious enough that she wanted to go see what was up.  By now, so did Large, whose mood radically altered over the next ten minutes.  Small saw us from the front, and scooted on over to join us.  We went back to the library to join the other ladies.  I explained that we would just watch, unless they wanted to participate.  As soon as the first ladies began washing each other's feet, the twins decided they wanted to wash feet, as well.  I said I would wash theirs and they could wash mine.  They whipped off their socks and shoes and rolled their pants all the way up to their knees.

By the time the basin made its way back to us, Large wanted to wash my feet as well.  I'd promised Medium I would wash her feet first, then Small's, and then Large's.  As I knelt down on the floor and picked up Medium's left foot, I thought about all the times I'd bathed them as babies and toddlers, the times I've supervised baths now that they're older, and my heart lodged firmly in my throat.  No matter how old they get, no matter how long they are with us, they will always be my children.  I cupped water in my hands and spilled it gently over Medium's feet, then dried them while Medium giggled (she's ticklish).  Motherhood is often the epitome of selfless servanthood, something especially exemplified in Christ's behavior at the last supper (can you imagine what it would be like to wash feet covered only by open-toed sandals, if at all, over dirt roads with a lot of animal traffic?), putting your children's needs so far above your own that sometimes you have to be browbeaten into taking care of yourself.  Small's feet in my hands are still small, but not as tiny as they were almost five years ago.  I blinked back the moisture in my eyes as I dribbled water on Small's feet and gently caressed them.  She gave me an impish grin as I dried her feet.  Large scooted near so that I could wash her feet, too.  My big many times had I done for her what she couldn't do for herself?  As humbling as it is to wash another's feet, the emotions are even more complex when you bathe the feet of your children, even as you know they don't understand why we're doing this.

I sat back in my chair and watched Medium hop down from hers.  She wiggled her fingers in the warm water  before gently splashing it over my feet.  She pulled the towel over to dry them, and then Small stuck her hands in the water, playing with it and my foot, patting me, dripping it on me, rubbing it on me.  She managed to get one end of the towel in the basin while trying to get my right foot dry.  Large wanted to conduct her washing of my feet all by herself, so I had to insist that her sisters back off and quit "helping."

I hope that my girls will always have such loving and caring and compassionate hearts.

And I thought, I almost missed out on this huge blessing.

When we all got back to the sanctuary, we formed a circle up front for celebrating communion (something new and different this year), and we'd share the elements the way that the disciples would have in the Upper Room, during what became Jesus's Last Supper (although, we dipped our bread into the juice rather than communally drinking from the cup).  I was going to have the girls stay back in the pew; the twins especially don't understand the purpose of communion.  (Small said to me, "But I'm firsty and hungwry!"  Yep, not ready.)

Then I changed my mind.  Let them come up with me and watch, I thought.  It'll be good for them to see.  So we trooped up and joined the circle.  After PeeJay had served Hubby, and Hubby had served the parishioner to his left, he indicated that I should send Large Fry over to him.  PeeJay's grin went from ear to ear as she skipped over to Hubby.  They sat on the platform steps and had a very quiet conversation for several minutes.  Her grin was almost as wide as PeeJay's when she came back and whispered, "Daddy says I can have communion."  I hugged her and kissed her forehead; she glommed onto me.  "Daddy says the bread is for the body, and the juice is for the blood."  "You're right," I whispered back.

First communion in our United Brethren in Christ church may not be a big deal with a lot of pomp, circumstance, cameras, pretty dresses and suits, and proudly-watching family and friends.  But I can tell you, in my heart, this was a huge deal.  For the second time during that church service, I found myself on the verge of tears as I turned to Large, holding the glass chalice and the tray with the bread, whispering to Large Fry to go ahead and tear off a piece of bread.  "The body of Christ," I murmured as she did so.  She dipped her tiny piece of bread in the grape juice.  "The blood of Christ," I said.  I held the elements and whispered the same for the parishioner on the other side of Large Fry, and then passed the elements to him.

Large nearly strangled my waist as she hugged the stuffing out of me.

I was so proud of her.

She had been respectful and appropriately somber, and I knew she understood as well as possible, at age 7, why she was participating.

"Next time," she whispered in my ear, "can I have the bread and the juice again?"

"Yes," I told her.  "The next time we have communion while you're in the church service, you can."

At bedtime tonight, she told me that she wants the three of us—Daddy, me, and her—to wash her sisters' feet in the morning.

And then have communion again.

I decided to let Daddy handle that one.

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