The Feast of Holy Thursday begin the Easter Triduum, which will last until evening on Easter. These are the most important days in the liturgical year, focussing on the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. The first day (Holy Thursday) holds several significant stories from the Gospels, which are incorporated in the celebration. Primarily it commemorates the institution of the Eucharist by Christ at the Last Supper, which I would guess most people are familiar with. It is probably one of the most popular and iconic scenes from the christian faith next to the Crucifixion and the Nativity.
A lesser known practice during the Feast has to do with another part of the story which takes place on the same night. This is the washing of the disciples feet. In the Gospel of John we read that after supper washed the disciples feet, teaching that the greatest must be a servant to all. If Jesus, being their Master and Teacher, has taken on the role of a servant, so must they. And here an amazing thing happens. Jesus gives a new commandment:
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.
John 13:34 “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos….“
The latin for the word commandment is mandatum and this is where Holy Thursday’s alternate name of Maundy Thursday is thought to come from. As such the pedilavarum or washing of feet is practiced on this day on Holy or Maundy Thursday by priest and pope alike.
In the picture above, which is from the Bedford Hours, you can see the Last Supper as the main scene and on the right three smaller scenes, showing the correlation to the Eucharist/Communion, the washing of the disciples feet and at the bottom; Judas betraying the Lord with a kiss.