Today is Maundy Thursday. The word is a middle-English word meaning “commandment.” World Wide Words says, “In Latin “new commandment” is mandatum novum (the first word is also the origin of mandate); on Maundy Thursday in Roman Catholic churches the anthem Mandatum novum do vobis (“a new commandment I give to you”, the start of verse 13:34 in St John’s gospel) would be sung, in particular following the royal ceremony of washing feet and giving alms. As a result, the ceremony became known as mandatum. The Old French version of that word is mandé and over time it became corrupted into maundy.”1 There was a tradition in England until James II that the monarch washed the feet of the poor on this day. Now ceremonial coins are given by the monarch instead.
The new commandment that Jesus gave was to love one another, symbolized in the washing of feet. Feet in Jesus’ day were not protected from the elements in fancy Oxfords or even Nike’s. The roads did not have “Do Not Litter” signs along them and nobody picked up after their dogs. Sandaled feet tended to be—dirty. Washing them was a profound act of service and welcome, something normally done by a household slave. Now the Master kneels to wash feet.
I am no monarch, but today I will be down the street at “The Hub” offering to wash anyone’s feet (or hands) that would like me to. I offer it as a symbol of our commitment to Jesus’ new commandment to love as he loved—to “wash the feet” of the world.