Observing the mandate

Today is Maundy Thursday. We called it Holy Thursday when I was a kid, a rare Protestant growing up in a mostly Catholic neighborhood in Baltimore. Maybe those childhood surroundings influenced the feelings I have held throughout my life for these solemn days — Holy Week — leading to Easter.

The word Maundy comes from the Latin mandatum, which means mandate or  command. According to St John’s gospel, before the Last Supper, Jesus washed his followers’ feet to show his humility. He then said to them: “A new commandment I give unto you: that you love one another as I have loved you.”

In many Christian churches, evening worship services include the Eucharist, or communion, in which bread and wine are consumed, commemorating Christ’s Last Supper. Until 1689, there was a custom in England of the monarch washing worshipers’ feet in Westminster Abbey. Food and clothing would also be handed out to the poor. Ceremonial washing of the feet of the faithful does take place in some Christian churches around the world.

Tonight, I will join my friends in the Chamber Singers, a small a cappella ensemble at our church, to worship together and provide special music for a Maundy Thursday service, led for the first time by our new senior pastor. This is a time for contemplation and prayer, shutting out the din of our lives outside the walls of the church building. In particular, this is a time for remembering the Lord’s mandate that we love one another.

I need it. I believe that we all do.

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