Maundy Thursday begins the Three Days (or Triduum), remembering the new commandment that Christ gave us in word and deed as he taught us how to love one another, washing our feet as a servant. We also celebrate the Lord’s Supper, remembering the meal Christ shared with his disciples before his death. Historically, this was the traditional day in which those who had undergone a period of public penance under church discipline would be restored to full communion. The Triduum period starts on the evening of Maundy Thursday and concludes on Easter Sunday.
A new commandment
An excerpt from the Companion to the Book of Common Worship (Geneva Press, 2003, 113-116, 131-132)
|On Maundy Thursday, these words are sung at the ceremony of the washing of the feet: “I give you a new commandment. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34). We are also reminded by Christ that we should imitate his loving humility in the washing of the feet (John 13:14-17). The term mandatum (Maundy), therefore, was applied to the rite of the footwashing on this day.|
The opening service of the Triduum* is not inherently mournful – the penitential acts of Maundy Thursday have celebratory aspects as well: restoration through the bold declaration of pardon; the act of footwashing, connoting humility and intimacy; the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, embodying the mystery of Christ’s enduring redemptive presence. Maundy Thursday’s rituals provide the paradox of a celebratively somber and solemnly celebrative service…
On this night we remember and celebrate the final supper Jesus shared with his disciples in the context of Passover, but we are neither celebrating a Seder (“order of service”) nor reenacting the Last Supper. Instead, we are sharing with our risen Lord a foretaste of the Heavenly banquet …
The end of the Maundy Thursday service marks the transition from the eucharistic celebration to the solemn commemoration of Jesus’ crucifixion and death.