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> Christianity F.A.Q. > Maundy Thursday

What is the story and meaning of Maundy Thursday?

The Thursday of Holy Week is known as “Maundy Thursday,” referring to the Latin word for commandment, mandatum. In these last days of his life, Jesus both states and enacts his new commandment, that we love one another as he has loved us. To show the disciples what he means, he washes their feet. These feet would have been dusty, cracked, lined. A servant would normally have taken a basin and washed the feet of guests arriving for a meal.

Jesus, whom the disciples know as teacher and friend, healer and leader, abandons all of those roles and kneels before each disciple, washing feet. It is scandalous. Peter, for one, cannot bear it. He says to Jesus, “You will never wash my feet.” (John. 13:9) Jesus leads him to see that this washing of one another is a way of revealing divine tenderness in common, human need. All of us need to have our feet washed. All of us need to wash another.

On this night in which he is betrayed by Judas, Jesus also has a last meal with his disciples. He shares bread and wine with them, saying “Do this in remembrance of me.” A washing and a meal—both shared in common, both offered by Jesus as signs of the love that will not let us go, of the divine life embodied in him.

Mary Earle

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