6 He cometh therefore to Simon Peter. And Peter saith to him: Lord, dost thou wash my feet? 7 Jesus answered, and said to him: What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. 8 Peter saith to him: Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him: If I wash thee not, thou shalt have no part with me.
Origen: This is an instance, that a man may say a thing with a good intention, and yet ignorantly to His hurt. Peter, ignorant of our Lord’s deep meaning, at first, as if in doubt, says mildly, Lord, dost Thou wash my feet? and then, Thou shalt never wash my feet; which was in reality to cut himself off from having a part with Jesus. . . . As Peter then did not see his own good, our Lord did not allow His wish to be fulfilled.
This saying we may use against those who make hasty and indiscreet resolutions.
9 Simon Peter saith to him: Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head. 10 Jesus saith to him: He that is washed, needeth not but to wash his feet, but is clean wholly. . . .
Augustine: He, agitated by fear and love, dreaded more the being denied Christ.
Origen: Jesus was unwilling to wash hands, and despised what was said of Him in this respect: Thy disciples wash not their hands when they eat bread [Matt 15:2]. And He did not wish the head to be submerged, in which was apparent the image and glory of the Father; it was enough for Him that the feet were given Him to wash.
Augustine: The whole of a man is washed in baptism, not excepting his feet; but living in the world afterwards, we tread upon the earth. Those human affections then, without which we cannot live in this world, are, as it were, our feet, which connect us with human things, so that if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves [1 John 1:8]. But if we confess our sins, He who washed the disciples’ feet, forgives us our sins even down to our feet, wherewith we hold our converse with earth.
Origen: Many, even after baptism, are covered up to their head with the dust of wickedness; but the real disciples of Christ only need washing for their feet.
Augustine: From what is here said, we understand that Peter was already baptized, indeed that He baptized by His disciples, shows that His disciples must have been baptized, either with John’s baptism, or, which is more probable, Christ’s. He baptized by means of baptized servants.
Scripture from the Douay-Rheims Bible. Commentary from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea, Vol. IV (London: Rivington, 1845).