The historic practice of foot-washing as a sacrament/al and a consideration of foot-washing in contemporary Christian contexts
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This thesis was written with two purposes: first, to consider the practice of foot-washing as a sacrament/al; and, second, to apply what was learned in order to appropriate the practice of foot-washing for contemporary worship services. Several methodologies advanced the work. A theological approach enabled a comparison of the definitions of “sacrament,” “sacramental,” and “sacramentality,” which led to a demonstration of foot-washing as a “sacramental” insofar as it has the capacity to reveal the divine and possibly to be a means of grace. Historical and socio-contextual approaches undergirded the examination of three Christian traditions that regarded foot-washing as a sacrament or sacramental: the Johannine community of John 13; Ambrose of Milan’s community and its post-baptismal practice; and the Mennonites. With the tools of liturgical analysis, examination was made of foot-washing as it appears in liturgical texts for several current Christian denominations in the United States and Korea. The themes inherent in these newer uses of foot-washing were compared with those of the three historical Christian traditions. The research disclosed that, in terms of contemporary usage, foot-washing is primarily located in rites for Maundy Thursday, while marginalized or absent in other worship contexts. This limitation called for the development of a “sacramental” foot-washing rite for ordinary worship services. The proposed foot-washing rite not only provides an opportunity to meditate on Jesus’ death and sacrificial love in connection with the Triduum, but also accentuates themes such as Jesus’ humility, God’s reconciliation with humanity, forgiveness of sin, and the consolidation of the church community.