It is believed that the term Maundy is derived from the Latin for Jesus’ new command to love one another (mandatum novum), or possibly the verb to wash (mundo). This is the day we follow the example of Jesus by humbly serving one another in the symbolic foot washing.
This is also the day we remember the institution of the Lord’s Supper. When Jesus made his last journey to Jerusalem, he did so for the express purpose of observing the Feast of the Passover with his disciples. At the Last Supper, Jesus broke bread and shared wine with his disciples. He told them that the bread was his body and the wine was his blood. He urged his disciples that when they eat and drank these things to “do this in remembrance of me.” The Eucharist on Maundy Thursday is a special commemoration of that Passover meal with Jesus and the disciples.
It is followed by the traditional stripping of the altar, during which all movable hangings and ornaments are removed to the sacristy. As the altar is stripped we begin to walk with Christ in his Passion, seeing all the signs of God’s presence which had filled our church slowly taken away. At the end, the church is bare, God seems absent, and we are left to walk alone with Christ the rest of the way to the cross. Therein, however, we find Christ’s presence an inescapable comfort.