The meaning of foot washing

MandatumOn Holy Thursday it is tradition and part of the evening’s liturgy to celebrate the washing of feet – known as the Mandatum. The name comes from John 13:34 (Latin,Vulgate) – “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos.” “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Throughout the Christian era the meaning of the foot washing has been understood as a symbol of the self-sacrificing and humble service expected of disciples. But if one attends to the text, there are two verses that should give one pause. In v.8 Jesus clearly tells Peter “Unless I wash [nipsēs] you, you will have no inheritance with me.” In addition, there is v.10: “Whoever has bathed [leloumenos] has no need except to have his feet washed [nipsasthai], for he is clean all over…”

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Tenebrae, Latin for “darkness,” is a religious prayer service with a long history of various styles and practices of celebration. Originally it was a celebration of matin prayer (middle of the night) and lauds (at daybreak). It was characterized by gradual extinguishing of candles, and by a “strepitus” or loud noise taking place in total darkness near the end of the service. Outside of monasteries, if the practice is observed, it include lauds and evening prayer from “Spy Wednesday” to Good Friday. Especially in the Anglican tradition, Tenebrae is set to music…enjoy