Three years ago, on 6 January 2016, the Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments issued the decree In Missa officially introducing the Franciscoid variation of the rite of the mandatum. We will not attempt to discuss the merit and demerit of this variation, which has now rendered the rite more facile to integrated into latent sloganeering and other patent social activism.
And below is a rare photograph of the twelve beggars whose feet were washed during the mandatum in the Cathedral of Nueva Segovia in 1916.
One notices that these selected men, viri selecti in rubrical Latin, are not the best dressed of the citizenry. We are probably reading too much from this one picture, because from what we see these men look poor, and were probably poor, and, perhaps, because of their poverty, they were given matching attires.
Below is a very brief, almost passing, description of how the mandatum was carried out in the then Diocese of Nueva Cáceres.
During the meal of the Apostles at the [Episcopal] Palace, the seminarians designated by the Fr. Director shall assist to serve the poor at the table and to accompany the Bishop. At two-thirty in the afternoon, the washing of the feet shall begin, and the maundy shall follow, as well the praying of compline.
A la comida de los Apóstoles en Palacio se asistirán los seminaristas que designe el P. Director, para servir a los pobres la mesa y acompañar al Obispo. A las dos y media de la tarde se comenzará el lavatorio, seguirá el Mandato y el rezo de las completas.
A few observations are in place. The first part mentions apóstoles and later pobres. These two mean the same thing. They are the viri selecti, men who have very little or no earthly possessions at all, selected and appointed as apostles whom the bishop invites to his table on Maundy Thursday. Later, after the meal, the bishop washes the feet of these poor men. Largely due to this tradition of calling the twelve men apostles that the new dicasterial decree had to be approached carefully in some places. In these places, the viri selecti are still exclusively men, but a new paraliturgy evolved where, while Mass is suspended in midair, the twelve men go to designated places inside the church and wash the feet of layfolk—men, women, children, etc.
Today, when we celebrate the institution of the Holy Eucharist, let us offer our Lenten sacrifices for the transmission of the things which we received from the apostles, who in turn received them from our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Today, we usually hear charity highlighted, and not so much as obedience, which the mandatum demands, for where there is command, there obedience should be.
Ut in omnibus laudetur Dominus.