On 17 April - Maundy Thursday - Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at Westminster Cathedral. The Mass remembers Christ’s washing of his disciple’s feet and his institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper; in commemoration of Jesus’s act Cardinal Vincent washed the feet of 12 Chelsea Pensioners as part of the service.
In his homily Cardinal Vincent spoke about how this night marks the beginning of the Triduum and the events that led to the salvation of mankind; reflecting on the words of Pope Francis Cardinal Vincent calls for us to feel great joy in these day approaching Easter:
‘We approach these moments with great joy, as Pope Francis asks us to, for here, in his words, we are again “accepting the Lords offer of salvation” and “are set free from sin, inner emptiness and loneliness.”’
‘This evening we reflect our joy in knowing Chris Jesus as our Lord, a joy to be shared with others. Tomorrow, on Good Friday, we shall ponder this “horizon of beauty” which he opens for us. And in our celebrations of Easter Day we shall rejoice in the delicious banquet to which all people are invited.’
Cardinal Vincent also reflected on Jesus’s washing of the feet and the example it sets us:
‘In washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus gives us not only an example of service but also an experience of being forgiven. This washing teaches us to put aside the great obstacle of our pride and also to be ready to receive from Jesus the liberating gift of his mercy. We do not serve out of guilt craving forgiveness. Rather we serve out of joy, knowing that we have been set free.’
As well as the washing of the feet in the Mass during the the Gloria all church bells were rung and will now remain silent until the Gloria of the Easter Vigil on 19 April. At the end of the Mass the Blessed Sacrament was solemnly processed from the Sanctuary to the Altar of Repose in the Lady Chapel of Westminster Cathedral.
Both of the traditions of the silencing of bells and the removal of the Blessed Sacrament from the Tabernacle during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper are done to enhance the mournful atmosphere in which we commemorate the crucifixion and death of Jesus on Good Friday.