Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Pedal justification

Jason Engwer’s recent post on justification by foot-washing raises some pressing questions in sacramental podiatry. Not every form of foot-washing is justificatory. Many forms of foot-washing are either invalid or at least irregular. Valid administration of foot-washing must address a number of key questions:

1. What type of water should the celebrant use? Hot water or cold water? Holy water or profane water? Spring water? Artesian water? Mineral water? Salt water? Fluoridated water?

2. Which foot is washed? The right foot or the left foot?

3. If the pedal candidate is an amputee, will a prosthetic foot be an adequate alternative?

If not, then is the foot-washing of desire sufficient? Does the pedibus flaminis correspond to the baptismus flaminis?

And what about the foot-washing of blood? Does the pedibum sanguinis correspond to the baptismum sanguinis?

4. How do we verify pedal succession all the way back to the exemplary foot? Is there an exemplary slipper to test the various pedal claimants (i.e. the Cinderella criterion)?

5. Which foot is the one true foot? Whose foot supplies the pedal exemplar? Must it be a Petrine foot? Will a Johannine foot suffice?

6. Which church is the rightful heir to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic foot?


  1. 7. Does it leave an indelible mark on the sole?

  2. Does one have to wash in Dave Armstrong's magic spas or is regular water OK?

    Does the foot have to be immersed three times, immersed once, or poured?
    What if one has a small foot? A club foot?

  3. Was the issue of apostolic succession by the tactile-laying-on-of-feet?

    What a hoot! Thanks.

  4. Ha! James A.'s comment was a good play on words!

  5. I can't stop laughing.

  6. Believe it or not, there are Catholic doctrines dealing with this.


    Regarding the place and number of those whose feet are to be washed, the rubric, which has remained unvaried in the new missal, describes the rite as follows:

    "Depending on pastoral circumstances, the washing of feet may follow the homily.

    "The men who have been chosen are led by the ministers to chairs prepared in a suitable place. Then the priest (removing his chasuble if necessary) goes to each man. With the help of the ministers he pours water over each one's feet and dries them."

    The number of men selected for the rite is not fixed. Twelve is the most common option but they may be fewer in order to adjust to the available space.

    Likewise the place chosen is usually within or near the presbytery so that the rite is clearly visible to the assembly.

    Thus, the logical sense of the rubric requires the priest, representing Christ, washing feet of a group of men taken from the assembly, symbolizing the apostles, in a clearly visible area.

    The variations described above -- of washing the feet of the entire congregation, of people washing each other's feet (or hands), or doing so in situations that are not visible to all -- tend to undermine the sense of this rite within the concrete context of the Mass of the Lord's Supper.

    Such practices, by greatly extending the time required, tend to convert a meaningful, but optional, rite into the focal point of the celebration. And that detracts attention from the commemoration of the institution of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, the principal motive of the celebration.

    So you can see, some overly-zealous Catholics do get it wrong.

  7. Oh my heavens! The One True Foot!


  8. Wait...I think Steve's getting this confused with pedal substitutionary atonement.

  9. If the pedal candidate is an amputee, will a prosthetic foot be an adequate alternative?

    Perhaps a parent can provide their own foot on behalf of the footless.

  10. No,

    I believe, and it's just my opinion, that the foot is not the issue, but the pedal is the problem.

    You see, you may drive a car with an automatic transmission.

    So if you are transmitting automatically, doesn't it mean you automatically wash the right foot?

    See, if you drive a car with a clutch, then I think you need to wash both feet at the same time seeing you have used both feet in the transmission of the action for which your feet became dirty!

    And see, now you are in the clutches of a dilemma, which foot do you automatically wash?

    These things are not easily understood let alone answered.

    And it is further complicated when the prothesis is in question!

    Does it take a Ph.D with a prothesis published in best journals of foot washing to settle this thing or do you just put you foot down and do the right thing?

  11. Unfortunately, most of the world has switched to metric.

    Those pagans!

  12. Isn't this foot-washing business a form of pedalbaptism?

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Kurt said
    "Isn't this foot-washing business a form of pedalbaptism?"

    Well, ... If the shoe fits. :)