On this night we remember the Last Supper and Jesus’ final teachings to his friends. The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin mandatum, meaning “commandment,” referring to “The New Commandment,” that is, Jesus’ commandment to us to love one another. (The famous text Ubi caritas—”Where charity and love are, God is there”—has its origin in this liturgy, and will this year be sung by the Cathedral Choir in a setting by Morton Lauridsen.) Saint Mark’s Deacon, The Rev. Emily Austin, will preach.
This Gospel is followed by a Liturgy of Foot Washing, an enactment of Jesus’ gesture of humble service to his followers. At Saint Mark’s, it is the tradition to invite the entire congregation to participate in this powerful and intimate act, both washing the feet of others, and allowing your own feet to be washed. It is your choice whether to participate or not.
A service of Holy Eucharist follows the foot washing, after which the ritual Stripping of the Altar is performed. Fundamentally, this ritual is simply preparing the worship space for the next “act” of the Triduum liturgy, since on Good Friday the altar is always kept completely bare. In the context of the Maundy Thursday, the act takes on profound symbolic resonances, reminding us of the stripping of Jesus before his scourging in the final hours before his death, the preparation of Jesus’ body for his entombment, even the stripping bare of our own hearts. At Saint Mark’s this ritual contains unique elements—you are invited to find your own meaning in this powerful, ambiguous, and unsettling act.
Music for this liturgy is offered by the Senior Choristers of the Choir School and (for the first time this year) the Cathedral Choir.
If you are watching online, you may wish to prepare a basin of warm water and have a soft towel ready to use with your household for the foot-washing portion of the liturgy.