On the night before his death Jesus had a final meal with his friends. Before this festival meal for Passover, Jesus surprised his friends by washing the feet of every person, a task that was normally done by a servant. He wanted to show his followers that they should love one another in humble ways. Later in the meal, which is known as 'The Last Supper', Jesus passed round bread and wine. He said the bread was his body broken for them and the wine was his blood shed for them. He told them that he was going to die and that when they share bread and wine they should remember him. The sharing of bread and wine at Masss takes place all year round, but it is even more special on Maundy Thursday. Jesus also told his friends that they should love one another. It was later on this night that Judas betrayed Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The Holy Thursday liturgy is celebrated in the evening because Passover begins at sundown. Usually twelve members of the congregation come forward for the 'washing of the feet' Cleansing, in fact, gave this day of Holy Week the name Maundy Thursday.
Also at this service, members of the laity who have been chosen as Ministers of the Eucharist are commissioned for another year.
Finally, the Blessed Sacrament is taken ceremoniously to an altar of repose where it will remain ‘entombed’ until the communion service on Good Friday. No Mass will be celebrated again in the Church until the Easter Vigil proclaims the Resurrection.
Before 1689 it was customary in England for the king or queen to wash the feet of the poor in Westminster Abbey every Maundy Thursday. They also gave them gifts of food and clothing. In Queen Victoria's time men received clothing, shoes and stockings and women 35 shillings.
Today rather than wash feet or give clothing our Queen gives out specially made Maundy money in white and red leather purses. The white purse contains silver Maundy coins matching the Queen's age in pence, 90p, while the red purse contains ordinary money. In 2016 this is given to 90 male and 90 female pensioners, because she is 90 years old this year. The service takes place at a different cathedral or abbey each year and people are chosen to receive the money because of good work they have done in their community.