Today is Maundy Thursday. The service of Holy Eucharist begins at 7 p.m. in the church. At about 9 p.m., the Stripping of the Altar begins, and following immediately is the start of the all-night Prayer Vigil which concludes at Noon on Good Friday. Invite a coworker, neighbor, friend, and relative to join you.
Maundy Thursday is part of the Triduum, or three holy days before Easter. It comes from the Latin mandatum novum, “new commandment,” from John 13:34. The ceremony of washing feet was also referred to as “the Maundy.” Maundy Thursday celebrations also commemorate the institution of the eucharist by Jesus “on the night he was betrayed.”
Egeria, a fourth-century pilgrim to Jerusalem, describes elaborate celebrations and observances in that city on Maundy Thursday. Special celebration of the institution of the eucharist on Maundy Thursday is attested by the Council of Hippo in 381. The Prayer Book liturgy for Maundy Thursday provides for celebration of the eucharist and a ceremony of the washing of feet which follows the gospel and homily. There is also provision for the consecration of the bread and wine for administering Holy Communion from the reserved sacrament on Good Friday. Following this, the altar is stripped and all decorative furnishings are removed from the church.