The Thursday before Easter, commemorating the Last Supper. Some churches include washing of the feet in the Holy Thursday service. Maundy Thursday, recalling the new commandment (mandatum novum in Latin) in John 13: 34 to love one another. The hand washing during this service symbolizes Christ’s new Commandment. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you.”
According to John as Jesus and the disciples were eating their final meal before his arrest, Jesus washed their feet to illustrate humility and servanthood. When they finished their meal they walked into the night.
This service is a time of solemn reflection on Jesus’ last night with his disciples. Jesus becomes a servant to his followers – the ones who betrayed him, denied him, and ran away in the face of peril. Jesus is an example of faithful living in an age of unfaithfulness.
At this service we will remove the altar coverings after Eucharist is served. The stripping of the altar symbolizes the abandonment of Jesus by his disciples and the stripping of Jesus by the soldiers.
The ancient practice of stripping the Lord’s table and sanctuary following communion is a vivid and dramatic way of showing the desolation and abandonment of the long night in Gethsemane and what followed. Designated persons pick up the cloths on the Lord’s table and the pulpit and other hangings, banners, candlesticks, and decorations and quietly carry them from the sanctuary. The church then remains bare.
DISMISSAL INTO SILENCE
Please leave the sanctuary in silence and keep vigil with Christ in your heart. Contemplate God’s great love for all flesh, and reflect on His Passion, which demonstrates God’s Love to us. As we await the power of His Resurrection, think about the reconciliation with God. Jesus worked for us on the cross, and be prepared to take up your cross to follow Him.