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Holy Thursday on Patmos: The rite of Washing of the Feet (video)

With particular magnificence and religious devoutness the rite of Washing of the Feet was performed on the island of the Apocalypse, Patmos, on Holy Thursday during the Passion Week of the Greek Orthodox Easter.

The religious rite is the recreation of what Jesus did before the beginning of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. Jesus Christ took a basin of water and washed the feet of his disciples, wanting to teach them to be humble and to serve their fellowmen.

The ritual of the Washing of the Feet began around the 4th century and was performed    mainly in monasteries. During the Byzantine period it was the Emperors who would wash the feet of their poor citizens. In last decades, the custom ceremony is being performed in churches in and outside Greece.

On the island of Patmos it is the monks from the Monastry of Agios Ioannis Theologos who have been performing this ceremony for the last 400 years.

As soon as the Divine Liturgy ends on Holy Thursday morning a procession begins and ends at the main square where a platform has been installed.

The procession begins with the icon of Jesus the Bridegroom, is held by two monks.

The Abbot of the monastery follows, and behind him priests, monks and a crowd of people.

The streets through which the procession passes are paved with flowers.

At the main square the Abbot takes place and 12 priests represent the disciples of Jesus Christ.

On the large platform decorated with flowers, there are 12 chairs for the priests, one throne for the Abbot and one table with a silver basin containing water.

The central point of the ceremony is the reading of the Holy Gospel of John, which describes the events of the Last Supper. When the monk who reads the Gospel reaches the point where Jesus is washing the feet of his disciples, the Abbot, representing Christ, is washing the priests’ feet.

The ceremony on this Holy Thursday 2019 was attend by thousands of people who had flocked to Patmos from all over Greece.

When the ceremony concludes, the procession returns to the monastery.

According to historical sources, the root of this practice appears to be found in the hospitality customs of ancient civilizations, especially where sandals were the chief footwear. A host would provide water for guests to wash their feet, provide a servant to wash the feet of the guests or even serve the guests by washing their feet.

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