In John Chapter 13, Jesus tells us to wash each other's feet, and that we will be blessed if we do so. Why do most churches do not practice this? How did this relatively easy and straight-forward task not become common practice in Christendom?

This answer does point out there are references of early Christians practicing footwashing, and there are few denominations still practicing footwashings.

Why is this not as common as communion? (Note: I'm NOT looking for why it is not part of the communion.)

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Might it be a possibility that only John refers to footwashing and not the other Gospel writers? If we compare this to communion, communion is mentioned in all the Gospels except John.

EDIT: I do not accept "Our feet are more clean nowadays" as an answer. Even though this might be true, it is still needed to wash your feet once in a while.

  • Good question. This isn't a full answer, but I think part of the reason is that, in those times, people walked around on dusty/dirty roads in sandals, whereas we have clean roads, cars, and shoes. Our feet just don't get anywhere near as dirty now as they used to. Mar 23, 2016 at 22:20
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  • Are you referring to the Maundy Thursday ceremonies practised in most of Christendom (because most of Christendom is Roman Catholic and Anglican), or to a general foot-washing? I'm sure there's a cultural thing here: it's genuinely useful in hot climates, but less so in cold weather. Mar 24, 2016 at 8:43
  • I think the problem goes away if Jesus' washing of the disciples feet is taken as a teaching example of humility in service without regard to status rather than a literal command to literally wash people's feet. To narrow Jesus' point here is to miss the forest for the trees. Mar 28, 2020 at 13:10

1 Answer 1


It seems that the washing of feet was somewhat more popular in the Early Church and even extended into several centuries afterwards.

St benedict of Nursia (480-543) in his Rule for Monks which covers all aspects of monastic life includes a chapter on the reception of guests.

Chapter 53 states that "the Abbot pour water on the hands of the guests; and both he and the whole community shall wash the feet of all the guests. After this washing let them say this verse: "We have received Thy mercy, O God, in the midst of Thy temple." Let great care and solicitude be shown particularly in the reception of the poor and of travelers, because it is in them that Christ is more especially received; for, as regards the rich, the very fear one has for them procures them honor."

At what point this custom fell into disuse is not known, but Dom Paul Delatte OSB the third abbot of Solesmes (1848-1937) in his Commentary on the Rule has this to say about the washing of feet:

The Abbot shall pour water on the hands of guests and wash their feet. Because the Abbot holds the place of Christ in the monastery, therefore is this function reserved to him, recalling the condescension of Our Lord to His Apostles at the Last Supper and expressing Christian humility and charity. In ancient times, to pour water on the hand of those who were going to table was the act of a servant or disciple; 2 with St. Martin 3 it became the act of a monk wishing to honour his guests ; and St. Benedict makes it a rule. This practice is still observed, and takes place at the door of the refectory when the guest is first led in. As to the washing of the feet, a regular element in the ritual of ancient hospitality, it no longer agrees with our Western manners and has long been suppressed; we must honour guests, not embarrass them.

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