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Commentary from 
Rivingtons, London, 1884
The fifth day of Holy Week was honoured by the Institution of the Holy Eucharist, and the names by which it has been known have almost always been derived from this distinguishing feature of the day,  As early as the time of St. Augustine [ep. liv. or cxviii ad Januar.] it is called Dies Coenae Domini; and in later times Natalis Eucharistiae, or Natalis Calicis.  The English name of Maundy Thursday also points to the same holy event, being a vernacular corruption of Dies Mandati; the day when our Lord commanded His disciples to love one another as He had loved them, to wash one another's feet in token of that love, and above all to "Do This,"-that is, to celebrate the Holy Eucharist after the pattern which He had shown them, - as the sacramental bond of the Love which He had commanded.  The day has also been called Feria mysteriorum, Lavipedium, and megalh pentav.  In the Durham book Cosin added a second title to the present one, writing it "Thursday before Easter, commonly called Mandie Thursday."  

Our Lord's act of humility in washing the feet of His disciples took a strong and lasting hold upon the mind and affection of the Church; and the terms in which He commanded them to follow His example not unnaturally led to a belief that the usage was in some manner and degree binding upon their successors.  In later ages, however, the Church of England has considered the commandment to follow our Lord's example in that particular, as one which is not of a perpetual obligation; while "Do this in remembrance of Me," is one the unceasing obligation of which has never been doubted.

Our Lord did, in fact, take a local and temporary custom, and use it as a practical exponent of His extreme humility, according to His words, "I am among you as He that serveth," intensified as they are by St. Peter's remonstrace, "Thou shalt never wash my feet."  At His hands the act had doubtless a sacramental efficacy, such as followed every touch of His holy Person when It came in contact with those who had faith to receive his blessing.  But the command with which He accompanied the act related to the humility and love symbolized by it, and did not entail a repetition of it by the Apostles or the Church of later ages, under circumstances in which the customs of a country or of a period had ceased to recognize the literal act as a necessity of social life.  As a symbolical usage the Church has however always, in some parts of the world, retained the custom of washing the feet of the poor on Maundy Thursday, Sovereigns, Bishops, and Clergy thus marking their obligation to follow their Saviour in humility and love for His poor.  It was continued by our English Sovereigns until the latter part of the seventeenth century, and by the Archbishops of York on their behalf until the middle of the last century.  The ceremony formed part of a service, which is still represented (though in an altered form) by the "Royal Maundy" office, and was connected with special acts of almsgiving on the part of the Sovereign, which are likewise retained.

In the ancient Offices of the Church of England there were several special observances on this day.  First (after the hour of Nones) came the reconciliation of penitents, a custom handed down from primitive days.  The Holy Communion was celebrated at the same time with Vespers, and there was a special reservation, the Rubric being, "Ponantur a subdiacono tres hostiae ad consecrandum: quarum duae reserentur in crastinum, una ad percipiendum a sacerdote: reliqua ut ponatur cum cruce in sepulchro."  In the evening  the altars were washed with wine and water, and the Maundy ceremonies performed, two clergy of the highest rank present washing the feet of all in the choir, and of each other.  The Rubric in the Salisbury Missal regulating these ceremonies begins, "Post prandium conveniant clerici ad ecclesiam, ad altaria abluenda; et ad mandatum faciendum; et ad completorium dicendum."  While the pedilavium was going on, the Psalms Deus misereatur, Ecce quam bonum, Miserere, Beati immaculati, and Audite hoec, omnes gentes, were sung; the Antiphon to Deus misereatur being "Mandatum novum do vobis: ut diligatis invicem," from the first word of which the ceremony took its name.  At its conclusion a sermon was preached, and then a "loving cup" (called "caritatis potum" in the Rubric) was passed round to all who had taken part in its performance.  The whole ended with this Collect: "Adesto quaesumus, Domine, officio servitutis nostrae; et quia Tu pedes lavare dignatus es Tuis discipulis; ne despicias opera manuum Tuarum, quae nobis retinenda mandasti: sed sicut exteriora hic abluuntur inquinamenta corporum; sic a Te omnium nostrorum interiora mundentur peccata, quod Ipse praestare digneris Qui cum Deo Patre et Spiritu Sancto vivis et regnas Deus.  Per."  A vestige of this ceremony is still retained in the Chapel Royal, the Bishop who acts as Almoner, and his assistants, being girded with long linen towels during the distribution of the Alms.

Maundy Thursday is also the day on which the Chrism or anointing oil has been consecrated from time immemorial, and in all parts of the Church throuhout the world.  In the Eastern Church the Holy Sacrament to be reserved for the sick in the ensuing year is also consecrated on this day, the one element being saturated with the other, divided into small morsels, and carefully dried; after which it is preserved in a receptacle at the back of the Altar.  [see Blunt's Notes on Comm. of the Sick.].