Question: What is the significance of foot washing on Holy Thursday?
Answer: Foot washing is an ancient practice of hospitality. In Israel in Jesus' day, with its deserts and dusty roads, washing of feet was an act of honor on the part of the host. However, the host himself would not do the washing. That was the role of the servant. The Apostles would have been accustomed to this tradition. At the Last Supper, Jesus takes on the role of the servant, washing the feet of his followers and friends. He models the humble, loving service to which the Apostles would soon be called.
Holy Thursday is the commemoration of the Last Supper. We celebrate many things, including the institution of both the Eucharist and the priesthood - "This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me." (Luke 22:19B). When the priest washes the feet of his parishioners, he is modeling the service of Christ. While foot washing is no longer a common practice in our society, we too are invited to imitate Christ's sacrificial service to others.