Maundy Thursday 4

Religion is a tricky topic to raise in a conversation, let alone in a blog. Nevertheless, people keep raising it in a number of interesting, occasionally irritating, often boring, but sometimes truly exciting contexts. Last year, on a site for aspiring writers called Litopia, I was told off by a forum moderator for asking one of the members about his/ her attitude towards Opus Dei. The question was purely academic, but my God... what an uproar it caused. Later I realised that the reason for that may have been the hypothetic possibility that some publisher or agent with whom the website worked/ had worked/ could work in the future might - just might - belong to Opus Dei.

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So today, instead of asking awkward questions, I will use the opportunity to remind of the meaning of this day in the traditional Catholic calendar and its possible social/ political implications. Maundy Thursday, Wikipedia tells us, is the feast or holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter that commemorates the Last Supper. That is putting it mildly. Because, at least in the experience of medieval and early modern Europe, Maundy Thursday was particularly remarkable for commemorating the episode when Christ washed the Apostles' feet. The episode (embodying the virtue of humility) was re-enacted for centuries in a very physical and immediate way - by washing the feet of beggars, peasants and other persons whom one considered below oneself in social status. In some cases - as at the court of Vienna in the second half of the seventeenth century - the poor men's feet were 'pre-washed' before the emperor washed them symbolically.

What is the relevance of this today? Sometimes I think it would be nice to introduce a form of corporate-social-you-name-it reponsibility that would require a simple and physical show of solidarity with those who are living in poor conditions. Especially for those who seldom come face-to-face with those conditions. In Eastern Europe at least, one does not have to go to Africa for that experience. I would love to see ministers and MPs making a trip in a packed tram, or big company CEOs spending an afternoon helping their lowest-paid staff with budget shopping. Call me a Luddite, if you wish.

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Krista 25.03.2008 21:59
Thank you, Maria, for this unusual, interesting and very timely view on things :) What it brought to my mind was a feature in one of the Latvian celebrity magazines about how the bored millionaire Julijs Krumins had decided to let into his life a homeless person - for a day, and in full view of the cameras to document this "adventure". He had the poor man profesionnally scrubbed and bathed by some beauty salon, and then let him wear some of his designer clothes - never forgetting to mention, for the record, how much the particular garment or shoes had cost him. So the two of them spent the day lounging about Krumin's mansion feasting on various expensive delicacies and washing them down with fine cognac - much in the tradition of Latvia's nouveau rich. I forget the end of the story but the man returned to the street at the end of the day and most probably didn't get to keep the clothes. This was all done for the purpose of amusement of Krumins as well as for selling the magazine ... although I do think Krumins attempted to pose as some minor philantropist. HOW disgusting is that?

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Maria 22.03.2008 13:45
Dear Thomas,

thank you for keeping me updated on the business terminology. I happen to share you perspective on the capacity of 'our modern-day Hapsburgs will find some new Maundy Thursday business concept to sustain poor living conditions and those who live in them'.

Have a happy Easter in the capital of the the great dukes of the Occident... sorry... I meant of the EU.

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Kalvis 21.03.2008 10:44
Because, at least in the experience of medieval and early modern Europe, Maundy Thursday was particularly remarkable for commemorating the episode when Christ washed the Apostles' feet. The episode (embodying the virtue of humility) was re-enacted for centuries in a very physical and immediate way - by washing the feet of beggars, peasants and other persons whom one considered below oneself in social status.
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Katoļu misē vakardien priesteris nomazgāja dažu cilvēku kājas - domāju, ka tā joprojām ir vispārpieņemta liturģijas daļa, nevis tikai viduslaiku Eiropas paradums. Pēc Sv.Rakstu lasījumiem tika iznesta priekšā liela plastmasas bļoda ar ūdeni un dvieļi...

Deputātu un ministru braukšanu tramvajā es uztvertu kā vēlmi normāli pārvietoties, nevis sēdēt sastrēgumos. Tikai diez vai tas būtu tuvākmīlestības un pazemības žests. Ja nu vienīgi - tuvākmīlestība pret citiem Rīgas autovadītājiem, kas var labāk braukt, ja vairāk cilvēku sēž tramvajos :)

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Thomas Huddleston 21.03.2008 10:15
Dear Maria,

I was recently told that the term CSR is outmoded in more business circles, which have picked up the project-evaluation term of "sustainability"; the sustainbility of what? I'm sure our modern-day Hapsburgs will find some new Maundy Thursday business concept to sustain poor living conditions and those who live in them.

Citi autora darbi