Uncluttered Body: 26 February

Washing

Abba Poeman said, "If a monk can overcome two things, he can become free from the world." The brother asked him what these two things were and he said, "Bodily ease and vainglory. "

Reading: John 13:1-14

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.

Thought

We have camped all our married lives. We really enjoy it except when it rains or was as cold as our last Church Weekend. It certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; it all seems far to basic for many.  Having said that, we have in recent years had the added luxury of our own portable loo and we try to stay on sites with, at least, clean washing facilities!

The desert dwellers spent decades living in hot, dry land­scapes with nothing but a cave or wattle hut for shelter. How did they bathe? One of them refers to "throwing a little water over his feet" in order to keep clean. More than that, they do not tell us, and I am left imagining that they washed themselves the way a large percentage of the world’s popula­tion still does today: rarely.  I am sure of one thing: they did not long for a bath as I do after a fortnight camping in southern France, or mope around because they felt deprived. The whole point of their practices was to detach from cravings for physical pampering. They learned how to do this through habitual self-denial.

Michael Casey explains the rationale behind their lifestyle:

Whenever we find genuine monasticism, there is an emphasis on a simple, austere way of life in which normal human desires are but scantily fulfilled. Monks serve as a reminder that a life of ease and pleasure is not the best way to find ultimate fulfilment. In a Christian setting those who practice monastic renunciation point to the existence of a richer and fuller life beyond death in eternity.

Action

I’m going to avoid having a shower or bath today, and think about those from whom that is not a choice.  Probably people will avoid me too.

Prayer

Lord, release me from the habits of sheer self satisfaction, and increase in me an awareness of other people’s difficult or trying situations.