“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 when Mass is celebrated as normal with a congregation, after the homily, the priest or bishop –in imitation of and representing Christ- ceremonially washes the feet of others, typically 12 persons 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.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols is encouraging Catholics to pray for our priests through Holy Week - particularly on Maundy Thursday when we recall the Last Supper and the institution of the Holy Eucharist.
Today, Maundy Thursday, we start our four-part art series 'At the Foot of the Cross' for the Paschal Triduum. We begin with Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting 'The Last Supper' from around 1495–1498.