The word “Maundy” has the same root as command, mandatory, mandate. In Exodus, the Lord commands Moses and Aaron to order the people to prepare the Seder meal. It is mandatory that the meal be prepared a certain way and they are mandated to dress as for a journey.
In the gospel of John, Jesus takes the role of a servant, and washes the feet of his disciples. Then he orders them to do the same: “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
Washing, bathing, eating, drinking - thoughtlessly we daily perform these actions. Our attention is directed to the radio, the TV, the internet, a myriad of distractions.
The scriptures call us to stop; to pay attention to these ordinary functions; to make them sacred; to make them into sacraments. Dinner becomes a holy meal: “…share the lamb with their nearest neighbor…it is the Lord’s Passover.” Mindfulness and attention to detail put us into God’s presence and protection.
We wash our feet daily. We wash the feet and whole body of our children, our elderly parents, even our pets. But on this day we stop—pay attention to washing as an act of love and an act of service. The ordinary again is made sacred by our careful attention, our intention to be of service to others.
From today’s Psalm 116: