Liturgy & Liturgical Law Forum: Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday QUESTION from Maureen O'Brien April 11, 2001 We have very orthodox priets, for which I am most grateful. However, today it was mentioned that the washing of the feet tomorrow will include women (Eucharistic Ministers) having their feet washed. This truly troubles me. Our Holy Father washes the feet of men only, and Jesus washed the feet of men only--not his closest women friends were included in this. If I am wrong by being troubled by this, I will accept this. If I am correct, what can I tell my beloved priests? They are truly traditional and wonderful--how this came up I don't understand!!
Thank you.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on April 23, 2001 Dear Mrs. O'Brien:
You are correct. It is illegal to have women having the feet washed. There is NO EXCUSE for any priest allowing this. NONE. The only time I can think of that would excuse a priest from allowing women to have their feet washed is if they have brain damage and are not responsible for their actions.
This practice is blantant rebellion.
Why do I make such a harsh assessment? Because the rules for this are in the Sacramentary. The priest has the rules right under his nose and can't miss it.
Here are the rules (which I posted in a previous question) as stated by
According to the sacramentary, The men [vir] who have been chosen are led by the ministers to chairs prepared in a suitable place. Then the priest (removing his chasuble if necessary) goes to each man. With the help of the ministers, he pours water over each one's feet and dries them.
In 1988 the Congregation for Divine Worship reaffirmed that only men's feet are supposed to be washed: The washing of the feet of chosen men [vir] which, according to tradition, is performed on this day, represents the service and charity of Christ, who came 'not to be served, but to serve' (Matt. 20:28). This tradition should be maintained, and its proper significance explained.--Paschales Solemnitatis, 51.
In both cases the latin word vir is used which means that men is not referring to mankind but only to males. Therefore, only men may have their feet washed on Holy Thursday. The practice of having the congregation wash each other's feet is also not allowed as the instruction refers only to the priest as the washer of feet.
Bro. Ignatius
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