Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday [Lat. mandatum, word in the ceremony], traditional English name for Thursday of Holy Week, so named because it is considered the anniversary of the institution of the Eucharist by Jesus at the Last Supper (that is, the mandatum novum or "new commandment"). In some churches, Jesus's washing of the disciples' feet is symbolically reenacted. In Great Britain there is a survival in the distribution by the sovereign of special "maundy money" to certain of the poor at Westminster Abbey. In the Roman Catholic Church, Maundy Thursday is a general communion day; a single Mass is sung, in the evening, and a Host, consecrated for the morrow, is placed in a specially adorned chapel of repose. The altars are stripped bare until the Easter vigil mass.

In the Christian liturgical calendar, Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday) is the feast or holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter that commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles. It is the fifth day of Holy Week, and is preceded by Holy Wednesday and followed by Good Friday.

On this day four events are commemorated: the washing of the Disciples' Feet by Jesus Christ, the institution of the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist at the Last Supper, the agony of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the betrayal of Christ by Judas Iscariot.

The celebration of these events marks the beginning of what is called the Easter Triduum or Sacred Triduum. The Latin word triduum means a three-day period, and the triduum in question is that of the three days from the death to the resurrection of Jesus. It should be noted that for Jesus and his followers a day ended, and a new day began, at sunset, not at midnight, as it still does today in the modern Jewish calendar. The Last Supper was held at what present-day Western civilization considers to be the evening of Holy Thursday but what was then considered to be the first hours of Friday. Its annual commemoration thus begins the three-day period or triduum of Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, days of special devotion that celebrate as a single action the death and resurrection of Christ, the central events of Christianity.

Name in English

"Maundy Thursday" is the name for this day in England. It is therefore the usual name also in English-speaking Protestant Churches that originated in that country and even in some that originated in Scotland, although the Scottish Book of Common Prayer uses the name "Holy Thursday". Other English-speaking Protestant Churches, such as the Lutheran, use both "Maundy Thursday" and "Holy Thursday". Among Roman Catholics, except in England, the usual English name for the day is "Holy Thursday", in line with the name used in major Romance Languages.

The word Maundy is derived through Middle English, and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you"), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John (13:34) by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet. The phrase is used as the antiphon sung during the "Mandatum" ceremony of the washing of the feet, which may be held during Mass or at another time as a separate event, during which a priest or bishop (representing Christ) ceremonially washes the feet of others, typically 12 persons chosen as a cross-section of the community.

In some secular communities, the day is incorrectly referred to as Easter Thursday. However, the following Thursday is the correct day for Easter Thursday.

Services

Western Christianity

Services held on this day typically include a reading from the Gospel account of the Last Supper, which includes Christ's taking bread and wine and, declaring them to be his body and blood, giving them to the Apostles. This day also stresses Jesus' washing of the feet of the Apostles at the beginning of the Last Supper, as recounted in the Gospel of John. At services on this day, a minister, priest, or lay leader(s) may wash the feet of some members of the congregation to commemorate Christ's actions and command. The Washing of the Feet is a traditional component of the celebration in many Christian Churches, including the Armenian, Ethiopian, Eastern Orthodox, Eastern Catholic, Brethren, Mennonite, Presbyterian, and Roman Catholic Churches, and is becoming increasingly popular as a part of the Maundy Thursday liturgy in the Anglican/Episcopal, Lutheran, and Methodist Churches, as well as in other Protestant denominations. In the Roman Catholic Church, the mass is followed by a procession taking the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose, and then by stripping of all altars except the Altar of Repose. In other Christian denominations, such as the Lutheran Church or Methodist Church, the stripping of the altar and other items on the chancel also occurs, as a preparation for the somber Good Friday service.The Gloria is sung for the only time during Lent. Traditionally, the church's bells are rung during the Gloria and are then silent until Holy Saturday.

Eastern Orthodoxy

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lenten character of the services is for the most part set aside, and they follow a format closer to normal. The liturgical colours are changed from the somber Lenten hues to more festive colours (red is common in the Slavic practice). The primary service of this day is Vespers combined with the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great. At this service is read the first Passion Gospel known as the "Gospel of the Testament", and many of the normal hymns of the Divine Liturgy are substituted with the following troparion:

Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies, neither like Judas will I give Thee a kiss. But like the Thief will I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom.

In addition to the usual Preparation for Holy Communion, the Orthodox faithful will often receive the Mystery of Unction on Great Wednesday as preparation for the reception of Holy Communion on Great Thursday. It is customary to cover the Altar table with a simple, white linen cloth on this day, as a reminder of the Last Supper. On Great Thursday, the Reserved Sacrament is customarily renewed, a new Lamb (Host) being consecrated for the coming liturgical year, and the remaider from the previous year is consumed. The ceremony of the Washing of Feet will normally be performed in monasteries and cathedrals. Because of the joy of the Institution of the Eucharist, on this day alone during Holy Week wine and oil are permitted at meals. Whenever there is need to consecrate more chrysm it will be done on this day by the heads of the various autocephalous churches. In the evening, after the Liturgy, all of the hangings and vestments are changed to black or some other Lenten colour, to signify the beginning of the Passion.

Beginning on Holy and Great Thursday, the celebration of the Lity (memorial service) is forbidden until Thomas Sunday (the Sunday after Easter).

Customs and names from around the world

  • The Maundy Thursday celebrations in the United Kingdom today involve the Monarch (since 1952, Queen Elizabeth II) offering "alms" to deserving senior citizens (one man and one woman for each year of the sovereign's age). These coins, known as Maundy money or Royal Maundy, are distributed in red and white purses. This custom dates back to King Edward I. The red purse contains regular currency and is given in place of food and clothing. The white purse contains currency in the amount of one penny for each year of the Sovereign's age. Since 1822, rather than ordinary money, the Sovereign gives out Maundy coins. which are specially minted 1, 2, 3 and 4 penny pieces, and are legal tender. The service at which this takes place rotates around English and Welsh churches, though in 2008 it took place for the first time in Northern Ireland at Armagh Cathedral.

Up until the death of King James II, the Monarch would also wash the feet of the selected poor people. There is an old sketch, done from life, of Queen Elizabeth I washing people's feet on Maundy Thursday.

  • The popular German name Gründonnerstag means either "mourning Thursday" or "green Thursday". Other names are Hoher, Heiliger, and Weißer Donnerstag (High, Holy and White Thursday, with "white" referring to the liturgical colour associated with Maundy Thursday).
  • In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the day is called Zelený čtvrtek or Zelený štvrtok respectively, again meaning "Green Thursday". Because the church bells fall silent until Holy Saturday, here called "White Saturday", because "they have flown to Rome", in some regions they are replaced by groups of children walking round their village and making noise with wooden rattles. People come out of the door and give them coffee.
  • Many other communities and cultures re-enact the Washing of the Feet of the Apostles on Maundy Thursday. In Malta, where Maundy Thursday is known as Ħamis ix-Xirka, "Communion Thursday," this tradition is practiced.
  • In the Philippines, the faithful carry out the tradition known as Visita Iglesia, or 'Church visit' in Spanish on Maundy Thursday. This is where they visit seven different churches as a pilgrimage. Others do 14 churches and say the Stations of the Cross, with one station in each church. Although some do this entirely during the hours of adoration (usually between 8pm and 12 midnight, after the Mass of the Last Supper), many split the practice into 'batches', doing some during the day (7 or so), and the remaining stations during adoration. This is also a legal holiday, marking the start of a long weekend (until Easter Sunday). Most people leave the cities to visit relatives in the province or go on holiday abroad starting from this day.
  • The tradition of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday is an ancient practice, probably originating in Rome, where early pilgrims visited the seven pilgrim churches as penance. They are Saint John Lateran, Saint Peter, Saint Mary Major, Saint Paul-outside-the-Walls, Saint Lawrence Outside the Walls, Holy Cross-in-Jerusalem, and traditionally Saint Sebastian Outside the Walls. Pope John Paul II replaced St. Sebastian with the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Divine Love for the jubilee year of 2000.
  • In Sweden Maundy Thursday (skärtorsdagen) is connected to old folklore as the day of the witches. Young children often dress up as witches and knock on doors getting coins or candy for easter eggs.

Other names

The day has also been known in English as Sheer Thursday, from an obsolete word shere (meaning "clean" or "bright"). This name might refer to the act of cleaning, or to the fact that churches would switch liturgical colors from the dark tones of Lent, or because it was customary to shear the beard on that day, or for a combination of reasons. This name is a cognate to the word still used throughout Scandinavia, such as Swedish "Skärtorsdag", Danish "Skærtorsdag", Norwegian "Skjærtorsdag" and Icelandic "Skírdagur". Skär in Swedish is also an archaic word for wash.

For Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Christians this day is referred to liturgically as Holy and Great Thursday, but is also known, less formally, as Great Thursday or Holy Thursday.

Some secular communities refer to the day as "Easter Thursday", although technically, the correct day for this name is the following Thursday, after Easter.

A common phonetic misspelling is Maunday Thursday.

References and footnotes

See also

External links

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