It’s not like anything you’re expecting, but it’s deeply meaningful.
This creative name isn’t describing a romantic dinner or something of that sort, but a profoundly meaningful gesture: the “mandatum,” or new commandment, which they give to each other. Here’s what it involves: Each wife washes her husband’s hands, and then the husband, laying his hands on her head, blesses her. Then the husband washes his wife’s hands and she blesses him in turn.
Indeed, blessing is not a gesture reserved only for ordained ministers: through our baptism, we all participate in Christ’s priesthood, albeit in a different way than ordained ministers. Thus, as a couple, this gesture is a request to the Lord to come and bless our spouse, who is present at the heart of our lives through the grace of the sacrament of marriage.
This gesture is also one of respect, a way of saying, “I love you, and you do not belong to me,” or “I love you like no one else, with your strengths and weaknesses.”
Finally, it’s also a gesture of mutual service: “I love you and I want to serve you, make your life more beautiful every day, forgetting my worries and putting myself at your service.”
“Through this real gesture of intimacy, we were able to put the notion of self-giving back at the center of our relationship,” says one couple. “It reminded us of the importance of supporting each other, of truly seeing each other, of paying attention to each other in everything we do on a daily basis.”
In the Encyclical Amoris Laetitia, “The Joy of Love,” Pope Francis exhorts married couples: “It is a profound spiritual experience to contemplate our loved ones with the eyes of God and to see Christ in them” (#323). Also, after Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, he said, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (Jn 13:15). Within our own marriage, within the different communities in which each one of us lives and grows, on special occasions or important liturgical times, we could consider calling upon the Holy Spirit to help couples rekindle their love through this gesture!
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