Today is a church day called Maundy Thursday. The term is derived from the Latin mandatum, which means "command." The origin of this particular day is found in the footwashing ceremony that the Gospel of John describes as a part of passion week. Maundy Thursday is observed on the Thursday before Easter and usually includes the celebration of communion in most churches. The "foot washing" ceremony is still observed in many churches to this day, as a distinct part of the ancient "love feast." For many these events seem far too ancient and removed from modern life. For those soaked in the narrative of Scripture, and willing to enter into the life of the community with faith, they still live with real meaning.
This whole ceremony is part of Lent, the forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Lent, you may recall, is a time of preparation and penitence. For me, as for most modern Christians, it is also a time for study, devotion, personal and congregational worship and deep spiritual renewal. This day is followed by Good Friday and then by the Easter Vigil on Saturday. Easter follows as the glorious day of resurrection celebration. I pray that you will benefit from these ancient practices as the Lord allows you the freedom and joy to pursue them in ways appropriate to your own faith in Christ as Lord and church tradition.
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We just came out of a Maunday Thursday service. We began with a sit-down meal in our fellowship hall. Then we went to the sanctuary where we had a foot-washing service and also participated in the Eucharist. We read the scriptures about the upper room and Jesus’ words to Peter. As you recall, at first Peter resisted having Jesus wash his feet. I could relate. As I went forward and our pastors washed our feet, it was incredibly humbling and somewhat uncomfortable. My pride wants to do things in my own strength and resists being served, either by Christ or by man. Having my feet washed tonight was an incredible reminder of Christ’s humble example and the one that I’m to emulate –both receiving from Him and giving to others.
John – Amen brother! I had to miss my own church’s service tonight as I am on vacation with my family, but I was appalled to find out this week that one Reformed pastor actually considered the existence of Maundy Thursday services disturbing (typical ignorance and arrogance from a select type of TR in the PCA). What a blessing to share in the historic Christian faith of old …
David L. Bahnsen