Mandatum Novum

Today is Maundy Thursday, the Christian holy day commemorating The Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples.

The word Maundy is derived through Middle English, and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum. It refers to the "new mandate" given by Jesus to his apostles. The Gospel of John tells the story of Jesus illustrating the significance of this mandate by washing the feet of his disciples before sharing his last meal with them on the night before he was crucified.

Christ Washing the Feet of his Disciples, Rembrandt, c. 1655Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos.

“A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another as I have loved you.”

John 13:34

Thomas Merton wrote: True emptiness is that which transcends all things and yet is imminent in all. For what seems to be emptiness in this case is pure being. But it's not this or that. Whatever you say of it, it is other than what you say. The character of emptiness, at least for a Christian contemplative, is pure love, pure freedom. Love that is free of everything, not determined by any thing or held down by any special relationship. It's love for love's sake. It's a sharing through the Holy Spirit in the infinite charity of God. And so when Jesus told his disciples to love, he told them to love as universally as the Father who sends rain alike on the just and the unjust. This purity, freedom, and indeterminateness of love is the very essence of Christianity.