Sr. Mary Martin gives the sermon before the ceremony of the washing of the feet.
The monastic ceremony of the Mandatuum is a cherished ceremony of Holy Thursday. The community gathers in the Chapter Hall before the Mass of the Lord's Supper. The prioress gives a sermon on the meaning of why we are gathered together and then washes each sister's feet while we sing the antiphons for this ceremony. Below is Sr. Mary Martin's Sermon:
My dear Sisters,
“Hear this, all you peoples, give heed all who dwell in the world.” (Ps. 48) In a few minutes, strange as it may seem, we will be singing this psalm verse. What is the good news that intrudes itself into so solemn an occasion and that everyone in the world must hear and give heed to? The good news is precisely this: after the Lord had risen from supper, he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of his disciples, to whom he gave this example.
The good news is the charity and humility of Jesus Christ, who loved his own to the end and showed his love in the most practical way, by doing what needed to be done without regard for dignity or “position”. This good news has to be broadcast to the whole world and everyone in it, and everyone who hears it must pay attention. Since we as Dominicans are in the business of proclamation, we must be the first to hear and pay attention. This we do every year as we enact this ceremony of the washing of the feet. We do it also in our every-day lives as we serve one another in community and forgive one another’s trespasses. But how do we proclaim the love of Christ to the whole world?
I contend that we proclaim the love of Christ to the world simply by being who and what we are. If we maintain our unanimity in community, being of one mind and heart in God; if we serve one another in charity; if we devote ourselves to the worship of God in the Liturgy and in our hearts; if we give ourselves over to prayer for the intentions recommended to us and for the needs of the whole world; if we are faithful to our vows and to regular observance, including silence and enclosure, our very way of life will be a proclamation to the world of Christ’s self-emptying love. As Fr. McLarney used to say, what we are seeps through the grilles and everyone who comes here knows, simply by osmosis.
What we are about to do, here and now, is a proclamation even if no one else besides us knows about it. By telling ourselves and telling one another, we are telling the world. Let us pray that we ourselves give heed and live up to the example of Christ, by the grace of Christ which is within us. Let us pray that the grace of Christ and the example of Christ is spread throughout the world, especially by the preaching of our brethren who can point to us as a living example of the Gospel in action. Let us pray that more and more of our brethren will see us nuns as a living example of the Gospel they preach. Let us pray that all in the world will listen and give heed.