Each year, on Holy Thursday, our Prioress and the priest share in the washing of the feet at our Holy Thursday service. First, they wash each other’s feet and then they wash the feet of others. This demonstrates the role of a Prioress in Benedictine life.
The Prioress is, for a Benedictine community, the revelation of Jesus, elected by the Sisters to be both the spiritual and business head. She attends to the needs of each Sister as well as the community as a whole. Benedict is quite blunt, in the Rule, about the Prioress’ responsibility. She is to care for the souls of her Sisters and her be accountable for doing so to God as well as to the community.
Holy Thursday’s washing of the feet recognizes her role. It is about her doing as Jesus did, serving despite the cost and guiding our journey to a experiencing deeper presence of Jesus in all we meet. I have lived with 5 Prioresses, none perfect, but each offering her particular strength, spiritual wisdom, love of God and Benedict to the community.
As I watched the washing of the feet last week I was touched by this rich symbolism of our Benedictine life.