At the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, commemorating the institution of the Eucharist, on Maundy Thursday, 13th April 2017, in Westminster Cathedral, Cardinal Vincent washed the feet of 12 Chelsea Pensioners, recalling the Lord’s washing of his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper.
In his homily, Cardinal Vincent explained the origin of the word ‘Maundy’, or mandatum, meaning command. As Jesus prepares his disciples for his impending Passion and death, he gives them a ‘double command: two inter-connected actions, which we do this evening,’ explained the Cardinal.
‘”Do this in memory of me.” Take bread and wine and do what he told us to do,’ he continued. ‘I wonder if in the entire history of humanity any command has ever been so widely or consistently obeyed.’
The second command is ‘inseparable from the first. It is the command to love and serve one another, as symbolised in the washing of feet,’ said the Cardinal.
‘Service flows from the true participation in the Mass. Service is the gateway through which we must pass in order to be truly part of this Eucharistic celebration,’ he added.
In the light of faith, ‘we see that Jesus, the Eternal Word in our own flesh, shows us the wholeness of human life: a service that springs from a glimpse of the wonder of God; the finest of prayers, the Mass, which flows in selfless service of those most in need.’
After Communion, the Blessed Sacrament was solemnly processed from the sanctuary to the Altar of Repose in the Lady Chapel. The high altar in the sanctuary is stripped and all bells are silenced, adding to the mournful atmosphere for the Solemn Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday.