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ABC on the Royal Maundy

ABC on the Royal Maundy

Queen Elizabeth II celebrated today the tradition of the Royal Maundy.

The practice of distributing ”alms” to the needy or worthy on the Thursday of Holy Week dates back centuries and is an important annual event in the Queen’s calendar.


It had an added poignancy this year being held on the Queen’s birthday – the first time the two events have coincided.

The Maundy ceremony can be traced back to the 12th century and its origins relate to the Last Supper when, as St John recorded, Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. [The Telegraph]

The Archbishop of Canterbury spoke on BBC 4 Thought for the Day on the occasion of the Royal Maundy.

What we see today is only a shadow of what used to be done hundreds of years ago, when the monarch would actually do what Jesus did at the Last Supper and wash the feet of a number of poor people. Back in the Middle Ages, this meant that the King was just doing what priests and bishops often did, not only on Maundy Thursday but on many other occasions.

They didn’t all do it because they were lovely humble people – some were, and some definitely weren’t – but because they accepted one great truth that needed repeating over and over again, the one big thing that Christianity had brought into the world of human imagination.

And that was – and is – the truth that power constantly needs to be reminded of what it’s for. Power exists, in the Church or the state or anywhere else, so that ordinary people may be treasured and looked after, especially those who don’t have the resources to look after themselves. The Bible is crystal clear that this is the standard by which the gospel of Jesus judges the powerful of this world.

Which makes you wonder…What about having a new law that made all cabinet members and leaders of political parties, editors of national papers and the hundred most successful financiers in the UK, spend a couple of hours every year serving dinners in a primary school on a council estate? Or cleaning bathrooms in a residential home? Walking around the streets of a busy town at night as a street pastor, ready to pick up and absorb something of the chaos and human mess you’ll find there especially among young people?

To read more, or listen click here, where the ABC speaks of the coming royal wedding. This morning Lambeth Palace issued a short film with transcript, The Archbishop of Canterbury on the Royal Wedding.

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Rod Gillis
Josh Thomas

It’s too bad the Queen doesn’t get down on her hands and knees to wash feet – or didn’t, when she was younger.

I suppose people would object that it isn’t dignified or regal or even respectable – which is of course the whole point.

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