Read the full story in John 13:1-20
Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. And during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel. Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded. He came to Simon Peter; and Peter said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me.” John 13:1-8
This is the first of the seven Christian Initiations – Initiation is simply about expressing ourselves in a higher way through our higher self which in the bible is called the I AM; ego eimi in the Koine Greek. To experience our higher self we must rise above our instinctual passions (associated with our astral or causal body) and our habitual thinking (associated with our etheric body or life force).
It is worth considering that this first Christian initiation occurs during the Last Supper. The meal shared by the twelve less perfect and the perfected One. What do these thirteen represent?
Each time we incarnate we develop certain characteristics which in our current life serve to assist us to move closer to the purity of the I AM. Each characteristic must be integrated into the present. The twelve disciples can represent those twelve past lives which produced the characteristics which must now work in harmony to assist the thirteenth; the most developed expression of the I AM. Disharmony, distraction and disintegration result if any one of the ‘disciples’ wants to act on his own.
By looking at the qualities that the disciples represent we can identify areas in our life where imbalance occurs. If we allow, for example, too much disorder in our lives, the I AM cannot develop to its fullest potential. If our weaknesses prevail, or if we are doubting, unloving or faithless, in other words, if we allow the individual characteristics of the disciples to dominate this will be at the expense of the I AM. However, each less than perfect characteristic contributes to our individuality. We can only love ourselves if we embrace our challenging characteristics as a work in progress.
So, during the meal, the gathering of the thirteen, we find this first step towards the ultimate integration of the I AM. The highest, the Christed I AM, washes the feet of disciples. The I AM honours all the characteristics that have contributed to the present. Imperfect characteristics, lower characteristics, yes, but still an essential part of our ultimate goal. In this way each of us is unique, the twelve characteristics are developed differently in each life.
How difficult is it for us to be grateful for our less perfect parts? We squeal every time we have to deal with the consequences of a past life. Each difficulty we face must become a foot washing, we must, with our higher consciousness, gird ourselves with a towel and honour these lower challenges.
A good exercise is to observe the natural order in the world. See how the soil supports the plant, how the plant supports the animal, the animal and plant support the human and so on. We, who have the potential of I AM-ness, can only attain it through the support of these lower kingdoms. Knowing this makes it hard to understand how the world insults the lower with its greed, thoughtlessness and ignorance. Consumerism contributes to land degradation, to genetically modifying plants, to the destruction of our natural resources etc., all in the name of profit. How far are we from stooping down to reverently wash the feet of that which supports us so that our I AM can be revealed?
Worse than this, we degrade other human beings, beings who also have the I AM potential. Human recklessness and carelessness can cause death, injury and disease. Greed and selfishness cause us to seek advantage over the other person. Through our judgmental thinking and our lack of love (hatred) we spiritually poison each other. Self interest, which paves the way for the individualism of the I AM, has become a goal in itself. Jesus says “If I do not wash you, you have no part in me.”
In the celebration of the last supper, when the bread and the wine are consecrated, the priest bows down over the elements and says “He said this is my body, this is my blood”. This is a foot washing and we acknowledge that Christ blesses the lower and in this way he dwells is in us, which, as St Paul puts it, is “the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).
If you would like to read more about this topic please order my Reflection series Christian Initiation http://bit.ly/9K5bzE