The Christian Church early laid stress upon humility.
There were various instances in the New Testament to show that this was a basic precept. Perhaps chief of these was the washing of the feet of His disciples by Jesus before the Feast of the Passover.
This, because of the example of great condescension, is observed to this day by Christian churches, celebrated the evening before Good Friday. The ceremony itself was formerly solemnly observed in all churches.
In England, until the time of James II, it was the custom that the king also receive on that evening as many poor men as he was years old and personally wash their feet, after which money, food, or clothing was distributed among them.
The charitable gift became known as maundy, for a curious reason, and the day, which of course fell on Thursday, is still known as Maundy Thursday.
This came about from the fact that, in church, the celebration of the washing of feet was always followed by a discourse which opened with the words of the thirty-fourth verse of the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel according to John: “A new commandment I give unto you.”
In the French spoken by the clergy of England after the conquest of that country by the Normans, monde was the word used for “commandment.” Its pronunciation at that period sounded to the English as maundy, and this later became the recognized English spelling.
Thus the day before Good Friday became known as Maundy Thursday, for it was the day upon which maundies were said and the day upon which maundy money or maundy gifts were distributed.