HomeCommentaryTo break bread is to wash another's feet

To break bread is to wash another’s feet

"I kept asking who among them truly and literally offered their bodies and blood for me? Who truly broke bread with me so that I can really live?"

Like other Jewish meals, Jesus took the bread, said the blessing, broke it and gave it to his disciples. They already knew this ritual before. But tonight, something was different. He told them in a solemn voice: “This bread is my body, broken, given. Share it.”

Then, he took the cup, said the blessing as he used to do and drunk from the cup which is the sign for the rest to drink their own cup. But tonight, he changed the ritual. He made them use one cup, his cup. “This cup is the new covenant of my blood, shed for you and for all.” This is how he wants to be remembered – someone committed to serve them: “Do this in remembrance of me.” The phrase “for you” sums up the whole of Jesus’ life — a life poured out for all, for the coming of the God’s reign.

Curiously, John is silent about these liturgical words of institution. The words we hear at consecration is not present in John’s gospel. He narrated the washing of the feet instead. Expressed in a different ritual, the message, however, is the same: that we should wash each other’s feet as we pour out our lives for all.

I concelebrated at the Mass of the Last Supper in Oslob church today. I realize it is the first time that I celebrate the Easter Triduum again in my hometown since I entered the seminary more than 30 years ago. I prepared this week’s liturgies somewhere else but not here.

I was overcome with emotions to hear the usual liturgical songs from childhood — Rudy Villanueva’s Gloria and Santo or the traditional Lenten song “Dios namo sa kaluoy.” The washing of the apostle’s feet was meaningful because my father was once an “apostle” and I used to watched it as a young boy from the pew. At the end, the canopy rises for the Blessed Sacrament procession, the “Pange Lingua” and “Tantum Ergo” are intoned, and the traditional wooden clapper took over the bells whose sound would only return at the Easter vigil.

While all these were happening at liturgy, I was looking at the congregation while they were praying and singing. I saw there my former teachers, former catechists, my old friends, the elders of my town, whom I deeply respect. They have aged now but it is on their faith, through their faith, that I have grown mine. I stand on their shoulders.

But I also kept asking who among them truly and literally offered their bodies and blood for me? Who truly broke bread with me so that I can really live?

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I found the answer in the nearby cemetery whose graves I visited before the Mass. My Mama and Papa — they were the first persons who taught me how to wash the feet of others, how to break bread with people whom we care about and even those whom we do not know. Without them, I would not be here in this altar today.

All these feelings came back to me at the Last Supper Mass. I kept saying “thank you”, as I shed a tear or two. It is for nothing that we call the Mass “eukharistos” (thanksgiving).

What lovely night it is with the full moon at the horizon.

Father Daniel Franklin Pilario, C.M., is a theologian, professor, and pastor of an urban poor community in the outskirts of the Philippine capital. He is also Vincentian Chair for Social Justice at St. John’s University in New York. The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of LiCAS News or its publishers.

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