By Jessica Easthope
The Lord’s Supper, when Christ instituted the priesthood and washed the feet of his disciples, is being celebrated very differently this year.
The coronavirus crisis is responsible.
“Today, I wish we could wash the feet of these Christians, the saints next door,” explained Monsignor Kieran Harrington Vicar for Communications, Diocese of Brooklyn, who on Holy Thursday night symbolically washed the feet of those saints next door: New York City’s first responders.
“This is a time when the mandatum, the washing of the feet, has been generally suspended within the Church,” he told Currents News at Saint Joseph’s Co-Cathedral. “But there are particular people who have been washing our feet in the example of the Lord every day.”
Among them? A doctor, an emergency medical technician, a firefighter, a police officer, a social worker and Lila Figueroa, a nurse at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.
“This is what I need to do because it’s someone’s mother, someone’s father, someone’s sister, a patient who could be a mother just like I am,” she said.
Lila is on the frontlines of the pandemic, treating the sickest in New York, and witnessing more loss than ever in her 20 year career. But, the greatest loss she’s suffered has been in her own family
“She was my older sister, she passed away last Thursday,” she said. “We could not be there for her, we could not say goodbye to her, and so many families are going through the same experience.”
Though Catholics across the globe haven’t been able to receive holy communion, the first responders did receive the Body of Christ Thursday night, from a distance.
“The Eucharist is absolutely meant to be communally celebrated and you recognize the pain of people not being physically close to you,” said Msgr. Harrington. “The shepherd cannot be afraid of getting sick from the sheep.”