The Liturgy of the Lord’s Supper on Maundy Thursday

Christ Washes the Disciples Feet

Christ Washes the Disciples Feet

We welcome you to Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church and this service. All are encouraged to receive Holy Communion tonight, even if you have received communion at another service today. We hope that our celebration of the Institution of the Holy Eucharist is a meaningful part of your observance of Holy Week and Easter.

Properly, the season of Lent ends this evening, and the period called the Great Three Days” (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) begins. So, this service marks “the beginning of the end”. From this point, a natural momentum drives us through Good Friday and Holy Saturday to Easter Eve.

This day gets its name from the Latin word Mandatum, which means “commandment”. This refers to Jesus’ words to his disciples on this night: “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another”. (John 13:34) Jesus expressed this commandment of love and this spirit of service by washing his disciples’ feet and action which, in Jesus’ day was reserved for the lowest slave in the household.

As a sign that we are called to follow Jesus’ example of love and service, the celebrant removes his chasuble, ties his stole across his chest in the manner of a deacon (a word which itself means “servant”), and washes and dries the feet of twelve persons. This is a simple, but eloquent illustration of our Gospel reading tonight, and emphasizes the constant necessity of works of charity and generosity, even in times of great difficulty. The Eucharist tonight is itself a feast in which we give thanks to God for the sacrament of the Holy Communion. Our weekly Sunday Eucharist is a regular re-living of this last meal spent with friends, and we honor the night in which Jesus gave us this pledge of his continual presence in our midst. For every time we celebrate the Eucharist, Jesus himself is really present with us, just as he was present in the Upper Room. And we are in that Upper Room too.

After we have received Communion, the celebrant, acolytes, and members of the Altar Guild strip the main sanctuary of all ornamentation. When the sanctuary is completely cleared, the celebrant washes the altar table, and the church is left bare for Good Friday. During the stripping of the altar, the congregation sits to say Psalm 22, a psalm of desolation, penitence, and hope.

O Jesus our brother, Whose feet were caressed With perfume and a woman’s hair, You humbly took basin and towel And washed the feet of your friends Wash us also in your tenderness As we touch each other, That, embracing your service freely, We may accept no other bondage; For you live and love with the Father And the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen*



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