Maundy Thursday

As Holy Week rolls on for Western Christians, today is Maundy Thursday. An assortment of food customs and revelry on Tuesday, Mardi Gras. Penitential ashes yesterday.

[Correction: I’ve compressed pieces of the liturgical calendar. As a commenter has explained, this is not Maundy Thursday. Yesterday was indeed Ash Wednesday, but now there’s the period of Lent until everything else comes along: this year, Maundy Thursday on April 17th, and Easter on April 20th. I’ve been away from Christian churches for some time.]

And now:

Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Great and Holy Thursday, Sheer Thursday and Thursday of Mysteries) is the Christian feast, or holy day, falling on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the Maundy and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles as described in the Canonical gospels. It is the fifth day of Holy Week, and is preceded by Holy Wednesday and followed by Good Friday. (Wikipedia link)

Today’s special event is foot-washing. More from Wikipedia:

Most scholars agree that the English word Maundy in that name for the day 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 in the Roman Rite 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.

Maundy Thursday is the first day of the triduum, a three-day part of Holy Week. Tomorrow comes the Crucifixion, then on Sunday the Resurrection, the solemn holiday of Easter, onto which any number of cultural practices have been grafted: the Easter Parade, Easter eggs, Easter hams, Easter baskets, marshmallow Peeps, and more.

I have never figured out how to explain most of this to Hindu, Buddhist, etc. acquaintances. It’s all so bizarre.

2 Responses to “Maundy Thursday”

  1. fruitcake Says:

    Except it isn’t Maundy Thursday. We’ve only just begun Lent. Easter is still a long way off.

  2. Brian Ashurst Says:

    That’s right. Maundy Thursday is April 17. It’s when the Queen hands out specially minted Maundy Money to the Chelsea Pensioners (who often then turn round and sell the coins at inflated prices).

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