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The Washing of the Feet

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$18.50

Size (in inches):

3 x 5

Item Details:

In “The Washing of the Feet", Jesus sets for the Apostles (and for us) an example of humble service to one another by washing the Apostle’s feet at the Last Supper. (John 13:3-17) We liturgically follow Christ’s command to wash each other’s feet at the “Mandatum" ceremony on Holy Thursday.

Icon holy cards are 3" x 5", a convenient size for use as gifts or bookmarks. The backs are blank except for a faint colophon at the bottom, leaving plenty of room for custom imprinting with your own message.

Image Origins

In Chapter 13 of John's Gospel we find: "And during supper, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him." And a few verses later, He explains, "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, that you also should do as I have done to you." Some Christian denominations today observe feet-washing as a sacrament. A ceremonial reenactment is part of the Roman Catholic liturgy, the Mandatum (Latin for "commandment") celebrated on Holy Thursday preceding Easter Sunday. The older name for this day is Maundy Thursday, derived from this Latin word. This icon is a modern rendering by Sister Marie-Paul of an ancient Byzantine image. The original design has survived copying and recopying for over a thousand years.

Theology and Symbolism

Jesus is shown in this icon dressed in the traditional manner. His tunic is red, symbolizing his human blood soon to be shed for us. His Robe is blue, symbolizing his heavenly divinity. His head is surrounded by a halo, iconographic symbol of sanctity. Christ's halo is inscribed with a cross and the Greek letters, omicron-omega-nu, which spell out the Greek form of "Who Am," the name used for God in Exodus 3:14.

All of the faces are drawn with minimal attention to realistic portraiture, but in the symbolic manner. The noses are long and slender, indicating nobility. The foreheads and eyes are overlarge, representing spiritual wisdom. The mouths are drawn small and closed in the silence of contemplation. The goal of iconographers is to portray a heavenly reality and message, not earthly beauty. The Apostle whose feet are being washed is Peter, who points toward his head. "Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" (John 13:9) Iconographic tradition is somewhat ambiguous about the identities of the other eleven.

The rooster on the pedestal recalls Christ's words to Peter at the end of John 13, "Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times." Note the inverted perspective of the cock's pedestal and of the platform the Apostles are seated upon. Parts of these apparently rectangular objects get larger rather than smaller with distance. This is not careless drawing, but a deliberate device used by traditional iconographers to pull the viewer into the scene.

The background is gold leaf. Gold, being a metal that doesn't corrode, is used to symbolize Divine light. The Greek writing on the background translates simply to "The Washing."


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