The Soles, the Soul (and perhaps some sole?)

As I took my morning walk along the river hill-ward under a blue sky seasoned with early cherry blossoms the text for Maundy Thursday was coming through the ear buds of my mp3 player. The feet, my own blessed feet,* for which I am ever-grateful, anchor me to the world I thought in that loose aimless way of thinking which walking welcomes.

When Jesus washed the feet of his disciples in that exquisitely beautiful, humble and love-giving act, he sanctified our walk in the world. The Easterners I live among have foot rules which sound similar to those of Christ’s time. The feet, shod, belong to the outside world. Shoes are removed at the threshold because coming inside is entering holy space. But the very Earth, too, can be your threshold as Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem reminds us:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God;

But only he who sees, takes off his shoes . . .

Your feet, the soles (no accident, perhaps, the homonym with ‘soul’?) tell you where you are in the world, they have a way of remembering, letting you know in which harbour you are anchored.

And doesn’t the anchor, that ancient Christian symbol of hope, bear some resemblance to the feet that anchor us to the Earth? The anchor, dropped deep to reach our deepest, darkest and most secret places set beside the washing of the feet carries the meaning that even the lowest part of me is seen, held and known by Divine Love.

The cross as an anchor with two fishes. This is the epitaph to Antonia, originally in the catacomb of Domitilla.

We are fish

saved through the cross of Christ,

a sure anchor

for our soul

as we traverse the waters of death.

Richard Harries, The Passion in Art, 2

Love your feet; use them for your prayers. Here is a teaching from the Zen tradition that will show you how.


* For a celebration of the advent of feet, watch the Ghibli movie Ponyo. It’s available I think on Vimeo

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