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Maundy Thursday

It is common for the bishop and clergy to gather on this day for the renewal of ordination vows and the blessing of the oils (New Zealand Prayer Book pages  382, 746).

Normally in the evening, the community gathers for the liturgy which is celebrated only once in the day. This is the beginning of the sacred three days of the celebration of the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In one sense our worship continues from now until the Easter celebration. There is no dismissal after this service, nor after the Good Friday celebration – it is one continuous time of watching and celebrating the mystery of our salvation.

The Jewish day begins at sundown, uniting the events of Maundy Thursday with the death of Jesus the next afternoon.

This liturgy commemorates a) the institution of the Holy Eucharist at the last supper, b) the new commandment to love symbolised in the washing of feet, and c) the betrayal and beginning of Christ’s passion and death. Sometimes this service has followed medieval and baroque practices of celebrating in a festive manner (with white vestments, Glory to God in the highest, and the ringing of bells). These notes follow a Passiontide style of celebration.

Furthermore, Passover emphases are reserved for the Great Vigil of Easter, which is the Passover Feast of Christians, and it is preferable that a Seder or agape meal not replace the Maundy Thursday liturgy. Festal meals are not appropriate during Holy Week. Such festivities take place after the Lenten fast is completed by the Great Vigil. In any case, if an agape meal is combined with the liturgy, it is important that there be a time of keeping watch, rather than having the service end in the chatter of a supper party.

The washing of feet has had a long association with the baptismal liturgy. Those to be baptised at Easter are beginning this feet first! Having one’s feet washed is not restricted to baptism candidates, of course, but is open to all.

Liturgical colour: Red.

The Gathering of the Community: Glory to God in the highest is not used. When the washing of feet is observed, the prayers of penitence may be omitted.
The alternative with white as the liturgical colour and Gloria is a more Baroque development which anticipates Easter.

The Proclamation (Readings: New Zealand page 586 or page 700)

Or the following:

Exodus 12:1-4,(5-10),11-14

Psalm 116:1-2,11-18

1 Corinthians 11:23-26

John 13:1-17,31b-35           (Revised Common Lectionary)

When observed, the washing of feet appropriately follows the sermon. This may be introduced by these or other appropriate words.

Fellow servants of Christ,
on this night Jesus set an example for the disciples
by washing their feet, an act of humble service.
Therefore, I invite you to come forward.
As your feet are washed
remember that strength and growth in God’s reign
come by lowly service such as this.

During the washing of feet suitable anthems, songs, or a psalm (for example Psalm 40) may be sung. The service continues with the Prayers of the People.

An example of Prayers of the People for Maundy Thursday

On this holy night we dine together as the body of Christ, and at the table commit ourselves to love and serve one another. On this holy night, then, let us pray for the church and all humankind.

God our provider, you feed us with the bread of life and lift for us the cup of salvation, on this night Jesus gave us this holy feast:

may all who gather at your table receive a foretaste of the eternal banquet.

God of love
grant our prayer.

Servant God, on this night Jesus washed his disciples’ feet: may we follow this example of love and service.

God of love
grant our prayer.

God of compassion, on this night Jesus prayed for those who would believe through the message of the disciples: may those who gathered on this day to renew their ordination vows so live what they proclaim that all may come to know your saving love.

God of love
grant our prayer.

God of renewal, on this day oil was consecrated for use in baptism and healing: we pray for all who will be anointed with these holy oils, for the sick, and for those preparing for baptism.

God of love
grant our prayer.

God  our companion, we pray for those unable to eat at the Lord’s Table or at any other table, for those who betray and for those betrayed, and for all innocent victims.

God of love
grant our prayer.

God of hope, remember all those in need, especially those we silently hold before you now …

God of love
grant our prayer.

Holy God,
you give us this meal of bread and wine
in which we celebrate your great compassion;
grant that we may work with you to fulfil our prayers,
and to love and serve others as Christ has loved us;
this we ask through Jesus Christ our Redeemer,
who is alive with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Variation/Addition to the Great Thanksgiving:
The opening words of the institution narrative may be changed to,

this night before he died… (NZPB pages  422, 437, 487)

in this night that he was betrayed… (NZPB page 469)

Where it is desired to administer Holy Communion from the reserved Sacrament on Good Friday, the Sacrament for that purpose is consecrated at this service.

At the end of the service, the ornaments and cloths on the altar and in other places in the church building may be removed. During their removal, Matthew 26:30-46 and Psalm 22 may be read.

The blessing or dismissal are omitted. The congregation leaves in silence.

Alternative introduction to the Lord’s Prayer:

Let us pray for the forgiveness of our sins as Jesus taught us.


Let us ask God to forgive our sins
and to help us forgive those who sin against us.

3 thoughts on “Maundy Thursday”

  1. Margaret of the Sea of Galilee

    Just my luck my 60th bitthday falls on MT…but will be back on track for GF
    Congrats on 10 years…Real Men spend hours searching out liturgies…

  2. Dear Fr. Bosco,
    We have found it a blessing for several years in our parish to do the Jewish Haggadah Service after the OT Exodus reading with a rearrangement of pews facing each other on the two sides , a long table in the aisle and 4 children asking questions with parents answering . A simple meal standing on one leg ( ready to go without delay ) of local rotti ( an unrisen pancake ) , bitter herbs in salt, mutton ( there are no sheep in Sri Lanka ). Then after the Gospel feet are washed, and after the Epistle the Eucharist is celebrated .
    I appreciate your comments on the Maundy Thursday colour, no Gloria and no bells.
    N. Francis Wickremesinghe

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