On Thursday 28 March 2013 the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, presented a reflection on the historical and spiritual significance of Maundy Thursday on BBC Radio 2 Pause for Thought.
"I can’t ever remember dreaming of a white Easter – but Easter is the weekend and the snow is still around. Today, though, is Maundy Thursday, the day we remember the last supper that Jesus had with his disciples. It was during this meal that he washed their feet. Peter, big of heart and with a loud mouth, was having none of it. ‘Never!’ he said, ‘You will never wash my feet, Lord’. He changed his tune when Jesus replied, ‘If I do not wash your feet, then you can have nothing to do with me.’ ‘Then, Lord,’ said Peter, ‘not only my feet but my hands and head as well!’ Typical!
‘Maundy’ – it’s a funny word. Some say it comes from the Latin word ‘mandatum’ meaning command. After all Jesus said, ‘A new commandment I give you: you must wash each other’s feet.’ In this he’s telling us not to be too proud to serve one another lovingly with complete humility. Don’t be too posh to wash! And that’s a command we all need to hear.
Others say that the word ‘Maundy’ comes from an old English word ‘maund’ meaning to beg. This makes sense, too, because today’s the day when the English monarch, in a tradition going back 800 years, gives a gift of money to those in need. In 1213, King John gave 13 pence to 13 poor men. Today, in Christ Church Cathedral Oxford the Queen will give Maundy money to 87 men and 87 women, to mark her 87th year.
Maundy Thursday, then, is a day rich in meaning. It’s another step on our journey to Good Friday, when we commemorate the greatest gift of all: the gift of Jesus’ death on the cross, freely given, to bring us God’s love, and then his rising from the tomb on Easter Sunday itself.
Today I’ll be washing the feet of twelve Chelsea pensioners. It reminds me, and you I hope, that without our kind service of each other, life can be pretty grim, snow or no snow!"