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Thursday of Holy Week
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14
Psalm 116:12-13, 15-16BC, 17-18
1Corinthians 11:23-26
John 13:1-15
“Maundy” Thursday comes from
the Latin word “Mandatum” which
was the first word of the first anti-
phon for the ancient rite of wash-
ing of feet – “Mandatum novum dedi vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” =
“A new commandment I have given you, love one another just as I have loved
you.” From the third century until today, with certain variations on stress, the
rites and events celebrated on this day are: the Lord’s Supper with the institution
of the Eucharist, the washing of the feet – the great new commandment of love
and service to love one another as Jesus loved, the institution of the ministerial
priesthood and blessing of the holy oils in the Chrism Mass, and the reconcilia-
tion of the penitents.
Jesus began his Passover celebration by washing the feet of his disci-
ples as a lesson in humble service (foot-washing was the duty of pagan
slaves and even the Jewish slaves were exempted from it). Instead of
serving the roasted lamb as was the custom of the Jewish Passover, Je-
sus offered his own body and blood as food and drink under the ap-
pearances of bread and wine. Thus he instituted the Holy Eucharist as
the sign and reality of God’s perpetual presence with us as our living,
heavenly food. Thus Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Holy Eucha-
rist at a private Passover meal with his disciples (Matthew 26:17-30;
Luke 21:7-23). He served as both the Host and the victim of a sacri-
fice. He became the
Lamb of God,
as John the Baptist had previ-
ously predicted (John 1:29, 36),
who would take away the sins of the
The celebration of the Holy Thursday reminds us that our celebration
of the Eucharist requires that we wash one another’s feet, i.e., serve
one another, and revere Christ's presence in other persons. To wash