“After he (Jesus) had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example/pattern (ὑπόδειγμα), that you also should do as I have done to you…’” (Jn 13: 12-15)
Just yesterday I happened to read about this event, which occured on Holy Thursday at the so-called “Last Supper,” described as “the day Jesus shared the priesthood with the Apostles.” I think this is accurate, in that it describes foot-washing as one of the symbols (or “examples” or “patterns”) of Christian priesthood, as a path of humble service.
Here’s a provocative thought that entered my mind, as I read this: The only “other” people in the Gospels, who engaged in foot-washing, were women. There’s the sinful woman (in Luke 7: 36-50), who bathes the Lord’s feet in her tears, and the other woman (or women) in Bethany, who anointed His feet and head, in preparation for His burial (Jn 12: 1-8, cf. Mk 14: 3-9; Mt 26: 6-13). But it’s only after these “foot-washings” by women that our Lord makes “foot-washing” an example of Christian ministry, at His mystical or “last” supper.
So, here’s all I want to say: The “symbolism” of the Church’s priesthood, as far as the Gospels go, is not limited to males. No. Our Lord Himself chooses a symbol, foot-washing, as a symbol of priesthood, performed by certain women, not men, in the Gospels. All I’m saying, – before any of you good people get upset at me for championing female priesthood, – is that the argument for purely “male” symbolism in our rituals and liturgy – does not hold water. It’s just a thought. “Help, us, save us, have mercy on us, and keep us, O Lord, by Your grace!”