Surely all of us who are aquainted with the tradition of Western art are familiar with those delightfully naive pictures in which, above the heads of the apostles, only the feet of Jesus are still visible beneath the cloud that envelops him. The outer rim of the cloud itself is a dark circle; inside there is glowing light. It seems to me that precisely in the apparent naivete of this picture something very profound comes to light. All we see of Christ in this historical account are his feet and the cloud. His feet – what do they signify?
First of all, we are reminded of a curious passage in Mathew’s account of the Resurrection, where it said that the women clung to the feet of the Risen Lord and adored him. As the Risen One, he surpasses all earthly standards; it is only his feet that we can still touch and we touch them in adoration.
At this point, we might reflect that it is only when we prayerfully follow his footprints that we come closer to his actual steps. We aproach him prayerfully, we touch him prayerfully even though, in this world, we do so always as it were from below, always from afar, always in the track of his earthly footprints. At the same time, it becomes obvious that we do not find the footsteps of Christ if we look only downward, if we only measure his footsteps and try to grasp faith in our hands.
The Lord’s movement is upward, and it is only by moving upward ourselves, by looking upward and rising upward that we know him. When we read the Fathers of the Church, something important is added to our understanding of this passage: the true ascent of mankind takes place precisely when a man learns to turn in humility to another person, bowing deeply at his feet in the position of one who would wash the feet of the other. It is only the humility that knows how to bow down that can raise a person up.
From Bavarian radio broadcast, May 16, 1985