Maundy Thursday takes its name from the Latin word mandatum, or commandment, and specifically from Jesus’ words during John’s account of the Last Supper, “I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13.34).
The Maundy Thursday liturgy is rich with the busy-ness of this night in Jesus’ life. We gather principally to give thanks for the institution of the eucharist, this pledge of Christ’s presence on the eve of his leave-taking. In that context, though, we are drawn to themes of servanthood and betrayal, of agony (although not in John’s gospel) and arrest. The Lord of glory is stripped of all but the quiet dignity that none can remove. We enact this symbolically by stripping the church of all its hangings and adornments. Similarly, we remove the Reserved Sacrament to an Altar of Repose (in the chapel), where it will remain as the sign of Christ’s presence in Gethsemane until midnight, the traditional time of his arrest. -Dean Ansley Tucker