Maundy Thursday

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Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Great and Holy Thursday, Sheer Thursday, and Thursday of Mysteries, among other names) is the Christian 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.

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 Latinmandatum (also the origin of the English word “mandate”), the first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (“A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”) This 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 as a separate event, during which a priest or bishop (representing Christ) ceremonially washes the feet of others, typically persons chosen as a cross-section of the community. In 2016, it was announced that the Roman Missal had been revised to allow women to participate as part of the in the Mandatum; previously, only males partook of the rite.

Others theorize that the English name “Maundy Thursday” arose from “maundsor baskets” or “maundy purses” of alms which the king of England distributed to certain poor at Whitehall before attending Mass on that day. Thus, “maund” is connected to the Latin mendicare, and French mendier, to beg. A source from the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod likewise states that, if the name was derived from the Latin mandatum, we would call the day Mandy Thursday, or Mandate Thursday, or even Mandatum Thursday; and that the term “Maundy” comes in fact from the Latin mendicare, Old French mendier, and English maund, which as a verb means to beg and as a noun refers to a small basket held out by maunders as they maunded. Other sources reject this etymology.

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