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Maundy Thursday for kings, presidents and prime ministers

British sovereigns were particularly identified with the liturgy for the Maundy Thursday service, which is celebrated today. (Maundy is the charming English abbreviation of Mandatum, the commandment to love.)

According to the Gospel of Luke, A dispute arose among the disciples as to which of them was to be considered greatest. Jesus said to them, 'The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves'(Luke 22: 24-27).

In the Maundy Thursday ceremony, kings followed the example of Jesus and washed the feet of the poor, but the radiant meaning of the ceremony often seemed to elude them and eludes some prime ministers and presidents today - they are not to be our rulers, they are not to tell us how to think and feel and live, and they are not to be our benefactors. They are to serve.

That is the mandate of representative, constitutional government.