To Kevin O'Brien:
> Comment: If you mean "geographically linked" to a Bethany Last Supper, I
am 100 % with you. But that scenario involves the deletion of Mark 14.12-16
along with its upper room, watercarrier, water etc. as well as Luke 22.15.
If you mean symbolically or theologically linked, I draw the line. Please
get the history and the historicity settled (involving as they do, the
time-space continuum) and then apply symbolism and/or theology.
> I include the following "link" between the two events on Simon the
Leper's Bethany property and the Last Supper which you rightly sense, exists
in the Gospel.
Are you suggesting the Last Supper took place at Bethany? The Gospels are
unanimous on this issue that clearly rules this out. Luke 22,39 says Jesus
and the apostles went "as was his custom to the Mount of Olives"; Matthew
26,30 relates that after singing hymns they went to the Mount of Olives;
Mark 14,32 says they went to Gethsemene. Now Bethany is approximately 12
miles SW of Jerusalem. This would require about a four hour hike on foot.
The key to the argument is in John 18,1 who specically says they went
"across the Kidron Valley to a garden". Now if they were in Bethany, i.e.,
approx. 12 miles SW of Jerusalem they would not need to "cross the Kidron
Valley" as John 18,1 states since they would have been on the wrong side,
geographically speaking. The Kidron Valley is at the foot of the Mount of
Olives lying between it and the Temple complex in Jerusalem. Bethany is
behind the Mount of Olives about 12 miles SW. So, two factors that prohibit
the Last Supper at Bethany involve a space-time aspect : (1) a bit too far
to conform to the narrative sense of time; (2) the geographical wrong
position for a route to the Mount of Olives.
> 'What prompted Jesus to wash his disciples feet at the Last Supper'?
The washing of the feet introduces the Last Supper as a Horacean amor dapis
(cf. Horace, Odes 4.4). John 13,4-13 narrates Jesus washing the feet of the
apostles indicating he had a pelvis (PODANIPTHR), that is, a wide-mouthed
footbasin type vessel, sometimes shallow, used for washing feet. Frequently
these were manufactured of stone or pottery but more often of bronze (Juv.
10.64). Water was poured from an urceolus (PROCOUS), that is, a jug over
the feet and hands which were held out suspended above the broad-mouth of
the pelvis, draining the water into the bottom of the basin. This is in
keeping with John 13,5 which says that he poured water into a basin and
began to wash the disciples feet. For a liturgist this is the origin of the
lavabo which in the early Church was an aquamanile, a large basin (cf. John
Lupia, "Aquamanile" in The Dictionary of Art (London, 1995) vol. 1).
The Gospel narrative tells us that Jesus undressed to perform the
footwashing ceremony. The reason why he undressed was to put on the
appropriate garment for the celebration of the Pasach Eve Seder. This
garment was the white linen SINDON, the four-cornered garment which had a
blue tassel hang in each of the four corners. The Hebrew term used to
indicate that garment was takrîkin "robe cloths" using the plural form
referring to both the four-cornered robe and its matching sash (LENTION =
sudarium = SIMIKINQION = semi-cinctium,). This was the special garment
Jewish men wore to preside over the meal as a priest praying for Gods
redemption of Israel prefigured by the salvific actions of God for the
captive Jews in Egypt. This four-cornered garment, much later on, was
modified in its design and function developing into two different garments
in current Jewish use: the tallit and the kitel. The tallit requires
tzitzit and is made in various designs ranging from a robe to a prayer
shawl. The antique four-cornered robe's design (SINDON) resembles what
contemporary rabbis call a shepherd's coat. This more ancient SINDON is the
same garment that will be used for Jesus shroud since it was the prescribed
cloth for burial by Gamaliel.
Before vesting in the SINDON Jesus hesitates and washes the feet of the
apotles putting on an apron, we are told. One variety of apron, the
encomboma (EGKOMBWMA) was the upper garment tied around the body in a knot
(KOMBOS) worn as an apron by slaves. Slaves also wrapped mappae or
mantelii, which were towels about their waist. Slaves dried feet with a
mappa (CEIROMAKTRON, EKMANEION), or mantelium that they tied about their
waist. Whereas, the LENTION "apron" described in John would suggest the
sash cloth of the SINDON which is frequently called a sudarium. For a
liturgist his was the origin of the maniple.
Meaning of the Footwashing Motif
An interesting point even more profoundly driven is in Luke 3:16; John 1:27;
Matthew 3:11; and Mark 1:7. Here John the Baptizer declared himself
unworthy to untie Jesus sandal, or in Matthews case, to carry them.
Either way the notion was that the person who untied their masters sandals
or carried them about was one of the lowest ranking servants of the
household, the pedisequus or footman. John the Baptizer was in effect
declaring that he was not worthy to be ranked as Jesus lowest slave of his
household in the kingdom of God. Jesus took this idea of the lowly servant
and played the role of the pedisequus to his apostles by washing their feet.
We are not surprised to see Peter protest that he would never think of Jesus
that way nevertheless actually have him wash his feet. The point Jesus made
was that among themselves they were all to deem themselves lowly servants
and that to serve one another should be their joy, privilege, and honor.
Jesus took the role of the slave-servant since the pelvis, urceolus, and
mappa were always carried by slaves. These servants were part of John's
fathers household and were there to render this service that Jesus usurped
from them. The pedisequus also anointed the guest's feet and placed
garlands on their ankles as a deoderizer. This was the lowest ranking slave
who was treated with contempt. In fact pedis was the term for a louse.
Hence a pedisequus is literally a horse's louse, that is a little annoying
pest worthy of being beaten and killed. Jesus assumed the role of the
pedisequus by placing himself in the hands of the Jewish and Roman
authorities. Jesus placed himself among them by taking on their duty of
washing the feet of the guests who had their sandals removed by them when
they reclined at table. This recalls a poem by Bianor (fl. A.D. 17):
This household footman, a slave whom all despise,
Is loved, and royal to one pair of eyes.
Jesus was challenging the apostles weltanschauung, or their world view. He
wanted them to rethink things not imitating the mentality of the secular
world. Jesus wanted them not to see in a materialistic way but through the
eyes of wisdom and holiness to appreciate and understand that in the eyes of
God all people are infinitely precious. Jesus confounded them and
confronted them to see things from his royal eyes.
Moreover, the footwashing was reminiscent of Luke 7,38 when the sinful
woman washed Jesus feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. She
had an alabastrotheca (ALABASTROQHKH) or unguent bottle purchased from a
myropola (MUROPWLHS) unguent seller at a myropolium, unguent shop, to anoint
his feet with. Another type of Greek perfume bottle was the aryballos. One
at the British Museum (BM GR 1865.12-13.1) belonged to a woman named Aineta
since it bears an inscription that discloses this as well as a long list of
her lovers. Since a perfume bottle had such an association in antiquity it
seems to suggest the identity of the penitent woman as Mary Magdalene. The
parallel story is repeated in John 12,3 and later on in Matt 26,6f and Mark
14,3f where the emphasis is on the fact that the oil is BARUTIMOU in Matthew
and POLUTELOUS in John & Mark signifying costly. The Evangelists describe
the scene exactly as was typical to the people of that time for the acta
adoratio (PROSKUNHSIS) wherein the Roman adoree prostrated themselves and
kissed the feet and knees and even the hem of the garments of a royal figure
as noted by Amm. Marc. 21.9, and Suetonius Vit. 2 ; where he describes
Vitellius who adored Caius Caesar this way. Pliny H..N.13.22 tells us that
Otho began the custom of anointing feet of guests with perfume during his
dinner parties. This anointing of Jesus would have been seen by the
Hellenistic-Christians as a type of ambrosia, a sacred oil that preserved
his immortality. The anointing of Jesus is done, therefore, from ones
heart in repentance and holy action. Luke, in his narrative about the
anointing of the feet, did not emphasize the anointing with perfumed oil
(MURW) but the weeping and the tears of the woman's true contrition. This
is reminiscent of a line written by Plautus in Mostellaria, "Ecastor mulier
recte olet, ubi nihil olet." meaning "The woman who has the best perfume is
she who has none." The example of washing the apostles feet, therefore, had
profound implications that weighed very heavy on the apostles minds long
after the resurrection as they learned to fulfill them by facta non verba,
that is, by their own personal deeds, not lip service. The Gospel
narratives then are prayerful reflections that contain within them all the
spiritual energy and imagery that would have become perceivable to the minds
of their audience. Accordingly, the role of the Christian is to serve one
another in humble servitude so as to keep in mind their own personal
sinfulness and shortcomings and need for constant penance and self-mastery.
Cordially in Christ,
John N. Lupia
501 North Avenue B-1
Elizabeth, New Jersey 07208-1731 USA
<>< ~~~ <>< ~~~ <>< ~~~ ><> ~~~ ><> ~~~ ><>
"during this important time, as the eve of the new millennium approaches . .
. unity among all Christians of the various confessions will increase until
they reach full communion." John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 16
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