Thursday in Holy Week or Maundy Thursday is the fifth day of Holy Week. The liturgy commemorates the Washing of the Feet and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles, as described in the canonical gospels.
“Maundy” comes from the Latin mandatum, or commandment, reflecting Jesus’ words “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you.” [Jn 13:34]. Maundy Thursday begins the Easter Triduum, the period which commemorates the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus; this period includes Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and ends on the evening of Easter.
The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is normally celebrated in the evening, when Friday begins according to Jewish tradition, as the Last Supper was held on the feast of Passover, according to the three Synoptic Gospels.
The liturgy commemorates the Washing of the Feet and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles, as described in the canonical gospels.
In non-Covid19 times, after the homily, the priest or bishop – in imitation of and representing Christ – ceremonially washes the feet of others, typically 12 people chosen as a cross-section of the community.
After Communion, the Blessed Sacrament is taken in procession, accompanied by torches and incense through the Church to a place of repose suitably decorated with flowers and candles for a Vigil of prayer and adoration into the night. This recalls the words of Jesus in His agony in the garden of Gethsemane when he asked His disciples to “Watch with me”, to pray to the God the Father.
The Bishops have selected these churches where if you are unable to attend a Maundy Thursday service you can watch online and join them in prayer.
Arundel and Brighton
St Chad’s Cathedral
7:30pm – Midnight
Hexham and Newcastle
St Mary’s Hexham
7pm – 11pm
Cathedral of Christ the King
7:30pm – 9:30pm
Holy Spirit, West Bridgford
8:30pm – 9:30pm
St George’s Cathedral
7:30pm – 11:45pm
Corpus Christi Maiden Lane
7pm – Midnight
The Oratory, Bishop’s House
In 2020, acts of public worship were suspended before, during and after Holy Week to address the global COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the Celebrations for Holy Week and the Sacred Triduum will be in the presence of Christ’s faithful.
However, there is a continuing need for social distancing measures, mask wearing and careful hygiene. To this end, the Bishops’ Conference has provided guidance for Holy Week. Here’s the section on the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
Mass of the Lord’s Supper
In the Decree of March 2020, the exceptional faculty to celebrate this Mass without the faithful was granted to all priests on this day, and it is assumed via the Note of 2021 that this is still permitted. However, the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper finds its fullest expression with a congregation.
The Washing of the Feet is to be omitted and there is to be no procession to the Altar of Repose.
The Reserved Sacrament is to be kept in the Tabernacle of the church. Those who are not able to celebrate this Mass should pray Vespers from the Liturgy of the Hours. The altar should not be stripped in the usual manner, and most certainly not if the Blessed Sacrament is reserved at that altar.
Holy Communion should be given under one kind according the previous Guidance offered by the Bishops’ Conference.
The priest and ministers may wish to spend some time in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle before exiting the sanctuary.
For reasons of safety, Watching in lieu of the Altar of Repose is not possible this year.
The Chrism Mass
If the Chrism Mass is not deferred to a later date, then this should take place in the Cathedral Church of the Diocese (or in another church adept for the purpose).
Those who participate in the Chrism Mass should represent the life of the diocese, in the first place and foremost with a good representation of the diocesan presbyterate, but also recognising the role of the religious and lay faithful.
The conditions for social distancing for those participating must be a prime consideration as the celebration of the Chrism Mass is universally popular.
A number of priests (preferably from different regions of the diocese) should concelebrate with the Bishop; others may participate in choir. The concelebrants should receive communion by intinction with care to ensure the bread and wine to be consecrated is covered until reception. Those participating in choir may receive communion only under one kind, in the same manner as the faithful.
The Renewal of Priestly Promises should take place at the usual point in the Mass. Those priests who are unable to attend should be encouraged to participate in the Mass, and particularly in this act of renewal, from their homes via electronic means.
The distribution of the Holy Oils and the Sacred Chrism to the priests of the diocese needs particular consideration which should take place at the diocesan level.
On Maundy Thursday, our four-part art series 'At the Foot of the Cross' for the Paschal Triduum begins with Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting 'The Last Supper' from around 1495–1498.