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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 Washing of the Feet (Maundy) and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles, as described in the canonical gospels.
It is the fifth day of Holy Week, preceded by Holy Wednesday (Spy Wednesday) and followed by Good Friday. "Maundy" comes from the Latin word mandatum, or commandment, reflecting Jesus' words "I give you a new commandment."
The day comes always between March 19 and April 22, inclusive, and will vary according to whether the Gregorian calendar or the Julian calendar is used. Eastern churches generally use the Julian system.
Washing of the Feet and the Last Supper, painting of Altar of Siena Cathedral in 14th century
Use of the names "Maundy Thursday", "Holy Thursday", and others is not evenly distributed. The generally accepted name for the day varies according to geographical area and religious affiliation. Thus, although in England "Maundy Thursday" is the normal term, the term is less commonly used in Ireland, Scotland or Canada. People may use one term in a religious context and another in the context of the civil calendar of the country in which they live.
The day has also been known in English as Shere Thursday (also spelled Sheer Thursday), from the 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 has cognates throughout Scandinavia, such as Danish Skærtorsdag, Swedish Skärtorsdag, Norwegian Skjærtorsdag, Faroese Skírhósdagur and Skírisdagur, and Icelandic Skírdagur.
On Maundy Thursday, the altar of this Methodist church was stripped and the crucifix of this Methodist church was veiled in black for Good Friday (black is the liturgical colour for Good Friday in the United Methodist Church). A wooden cross sits in front of the bare chancel for the veneration of the cross ceremony, which occurs during the United Methodist Good Friday liturgy.
Maundy is the name of the Christian rite of footwashing, which traditionally occurs during Maundy Thursday church services. Most scholars agree that the English word maundy in that name for the day is derived through Middle English and Old Frenchmandé, 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 ofJohn 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 Maundy (Ecclesiastical Latin: "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 12 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 12 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 Shepherd of the Springs, Lutheran Church 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.
"The Last Supper" - museum copy of Master Paul's sculpture
In the Catholic Church and in some Anglican churches, the Mass of the Lord's Supper begins as usual, but the Gloria is accompanied by the ringing of bells, which are then silent until the Easter Vigil. After the homily the washing of feet may be performed. The Blessed Sacrament remains exposed, at least in the Catholic Mass, until the service concludes with a procession taking it to the place of reposition. The altar is later stripped bare, as are all other altars in the church except the Altar of Repose. In pre-1970 editions, the Roman Missal envisages this being done ceremonially, to the accompaniment of Psalm 21/22, a practice which continues in many Anglican churches. 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 Chrism Mass is a religious service held in Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism and Anglicanism.
Maundy Thursday is notable for being the day on which the Chrism Mass is celebrated in each diocese. The Chrism Mass is one of the most solemn and important liturgies of the liturgical year. Usually held in the diocesean cathedral, it is generally held on the morning of Maundy Thursday, but may in some dioceses take place on another day during Holy Week. It is often the largest annual gathering of clergy and faithful held in most dioceses. The Mass is a celebration of the institution of the priesthood. During the Mass, those present are called to renew their baptismal promises; priests/ministers and deacons also reaffirm their ministry by renewing the promises made at their ordination.
The Mass takes its name from the blessing of the holy oils used in the sacraments throughout the year, which are then given to priests to take back to their parishes. The Rite of Reception of the Oils by representatives of the diocesan parishes is a sign of each parish's unity with the Bishop and the diocesan Church.
The service is a 1967 restoration of the rite recorded in the early 200s by the historian Hippolytus who writes of a ceremony taking place during the Easter Vigil at which two holy oils were blessed and one was consecrated. In the fifth century, the ceremony of the oils was transferred from the Holy Saturday Vigil to Holy Thursday during a special Mass for that purpose, distinct from the Mass of the Lord's Supper. In the decree renewing this rite Pope Paul VI said:"The Chrism Mass is one of the principal expressions of the fullness of the bishop's priesthood and signifies the closeness of the priests with him."
The oil of the catechumens and chrism are used on the upcoming Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil, for the baptism and confirmation of those entering the church. While the Oil of the Catechumens and the Oil of the Sick, are simply "blessed," the Sacred Chrism is "consecrated,". Holy chrism is a mixture of olive oil and balsam, an aromatic resin. Balsam is poured into the oil, which gives it a sweet smell intended to remind those who encounter it of the "odor of sanctity" to which those who are marked with it, are called to strive. The bishop breathes over the vessel containing the chrism, a gesture which symbolizes the Holy Spirit coming down to consecrate this oil, and recalls the actions of Jesus in John 20:22, when he breathed on the apostles and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit..."
With respect to Anglicanism, the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (p. 307) calls for chrism to be consecrated by the bishop. In many dioceses, the consecration of chrism by the bishop may be done at a service of reaffirmation of ordination vows during Holy Week. During the Chrism Eucharist, the Bishop will bless the oils used throughout the next year for baptisms and healing. In addition, the Bishop and clergy in attendance will reaffirm their Ordination Vows.
Orthodox icon of Christ washing the feet of the Apostles (16th century, Pskov school of iconography)
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 will I give Thee a kiss like Judas. But like the Thief will I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom.
Reading of the 12th Passion Gospel on Great and Holy Thursday
In the evening, after the Liturgy, all of the hangings and vestments are changed to black or some other dark colour, to signify the beginning of the Passion. Anticipating the Matins of Friday morning, the Holy Passion service of the reading of the Twelve Gospels is conducted. In these readings Christ's last instructions to his disciples are presented, as well as the prophecy of the drama of the Cross, Christ's prayer, and his new commandment. The twelve readings are:
Maundy Thursday and other named days and day ranges around Lent and Easter in Western Christianity, with the fasting days of Lent numbered
In Greek practice, the Mystery of Unction is performed on Great Wednesday as preparation for the reception of Holy Communion on Great Thursday and Pascha, a custom that originated when Greece was under Ottoman control and parish priests, being uneducated, were not permitted to hear confession, so this sacrament, by which sins are believed to be forgiven, came to be performed.
In Greek tradition, a procession is made during the service of the Twelve Passion Gospels. It takes place after the reading of the fifth gospel during the singing of "Today He Who Hung". During this procession, a large cross with the body of Christ is carried throughout the church while lights are extinguished, bells are slowly tolled, and the faithful prostrate themselves. The cross, with Christ's body hung upon it, is placed in front of the Royal Doors. The icon of Christ on the cross (sometimes with nails affixing it) is struck upon the hands and feet with a stone multiple times, and is then stood up in front of the church, where it is censed.
In some Slavic traditions, a lesser procession is made after the Twelve Passion Gospels immediately prior to the dismissal with an icon of Christ's crucifixion which is placed on the central icon stand, where it is censed by the clergy, and then venerated.
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If statues and crucifixes have been covered during Passion Time (the last 2 weeks of Lent, at least in the 1962 Catholic missal), the crucifix covers are allowed to be white instead of purple for Holy Thursday.
Maundy Thursday celebrations in the United Kingdom (also called Royal Maundy) today involve the Monarch 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, and is a custom dating back to King Edward I. The red purse contains regular currency and is given in place of food and clothing; the white purse has money 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. 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".
In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the day is called Zelený ?tvrtek or Zelený ?tvrtok respectively, again meaning "Green Thursday". It is because the typical meals of this day were made of fresh, green vegetables etc. From that day there is no usage of the church bells until Holy Saturday, here called "White Saturday", because "they have flown to Rome" (a euphemism), in some regions they are replaced by groups of children walking round their village (or around the church) and making noise with wooden rattles. This is to announce to the people approaching beginning of the liturgy and call the people to the church.
The tradition of silent bells is found also in Luxembourg: the bells fall silent until Easter, because "they have flown to Rome for Confession", so children take to the streets, calling people to church with melancholy wooden rattling.
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.
In Bulgaria Maundy Thursday is called Veliki Chetvurtuk (Great Thursday), and is traditionally the day when people color their easter eggs and perform other household chores geared toward preparing for Razpeti Petuk (Crucifixion Friday), Velika Subota (Great Saturday) and Velikden (Easter Day).
In Kerala State in India, the day is called as Pesaha(?), a Malayalam word derived from the Aramaic or Syriac word for Passover. It is a statewide public holiday declared by the Government of Kerala, given the high number of Saint Thomas Christians in the state. The tradition of consuming Pesaha appam or Indariyappam is customary after special longer Holy Qurbana, which are conducted on the or at midnight till morning in churches of Saint Thomas Christians. On the evening before Good Friday the Pesaha bread is made at home. It is made with unleavened flour and they use a sweet drink made up of coconut milk and jaggery along with this bread (can be compared to Charoset). On the Pesaha night the bread is steamed in a new vessel, immediately after rice flour is mixed with water and they pierce it many times with handle of the spoon to let out the steam so that the bread will not rise. This bread is cut by the head of the family and shared among the family members after prayers. In some families, a creamy dip made up of jaggery and coconut milk is used along with the Pesaha bread. If the family is in mourning following a death, Pesaha bread is not made at their home, but some of the Saint Thomas Christian neighbours share their bread with them. The Saint Thomas Christians diaspora also celebrate this day by having Holy Communion services in the parishes according to their respective liturgies. The tradition of washing feet by priests is practiced in every parish commemorating Jesus washing the feet of his disciples symbolizing humbleness.
In the Philippines, the day is officially known as Huwebes Santo or "Maundy Thursday" (the term "Holy Thursday" is rarely used). Most businesses are closed during the Easter Triduum, with shopping malls opening on Black Saturday. Terrestrial television and radio stations either go completely off-air during the Triduum or operate on shorter hours with special programming; cable channels usually retain their normal programming. Newspapers do not publish on Good Friday and Black Saturday.
The tradition of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday is an ancient practice, probably originating in Rome. and occurs among the faithful in countries around the world.
In India, the custom is to visit fourteen churches, one per Station of the Cross. Traditionally, this is performed on Maundy Thursday evening but is more often done on the morning of Good Friday or on any day of Lent. Usually, whole families would participate, customarily fasting for the duration of the rite. It is also undertaken by parish devotional groups.
In the Philippines, the tradition is called Visita Iglesia (Spanish, "church visit"), where people visit churches to pray, usually reciting the Stations of the Cross. The Stations are often distributed amongst one, seven, or fourteen churches; the custom until the 1970s was to pray all fourteen in each church. It is a chiefly urban custom, as churches are located closer to each other in cities, and supposedly because it originates in visiting the seven churches of Intramuros that stood until the 1945 Bombing of Manila. The original purpose of the ritual was to venerate the Blessed Sacrament in the Altar of Repose on Maundy Thursday night, but since no prayers were prescribed (apart from those for the Pope), the Stations of the Cross were recited. Some Filipino liturgists[who?], however, have sought to revive the original vigil before the Blessed Sacrament, and have composed prayers to guide contemporary worshippers.
In Singapore, the visiting of churches occurs shortly after the evening Mass of the Last Supper. Prayers at each church consist of seven repetitions of the Lord's Prayer, Ave Maria, and the Gloria Patri. Due to the new trend of late Mass times (sometimes 7 or 8 pm) to allow for more churchgoers, eight churches are the maximum number visited (even in the city area, where these are closer to each other than in outer residential areas) before these close at midnight. A festive atmosphere exists, with the sale of drinks, hot cross buns and other local snacks like the traditional kueh ko chee. Observant Catholics have a 'Last Supper' meal in anticipation of the next day's fast.
^Peter C. Bower. The Companion to the Book of Common Worship. Geneva Press. Retrieved 2009. All of Holy Week points toward the passion-the death and resurrection of Christ. The week's three final days (from sunset Thursday through sunset on Easter) complete the commemoration of Christ's passion. These three days are called the Triduum.
^Gwyneth Windsor, John Hughes (21 November 1990). Worship and Festivals. Heinemann. Retrieved 2009. On the Thursday, which is known as Maundy Thursday, Christians remember the Last Supper which Jesus had with his disciples. It was the Jewish Feast of the Passover, and the meal which they had together was the traditional Seder meal, eaten that evening by the Jews everywhere.
^Akin, Jimmy (27 March 2013). "10 things you need to know about Holy Thursday". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 2014. Holy Thursday is thus sometimes called Maundy Thursday because it was on this day that Christ gave us the new commandment--the new mandate--to love one another as he loves us.
^The Presbyterian Handbook. Geneva Press. 2006. p. 75. Retrieved 2012. These days (approximately three 24-hour periods) begin on Maundy Thursday evening and conclude on Easter evening. On Maundy Thursday we hear the story of Jesus' last meal with his disciples and his act of service and love in washing their feet.
^Charles Dickens. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Sine nomine. Retrieved 2012. Maundy Thursday is the day immediately preceding Good Friday. It was also known as Shere Thursday, probably from a custom of the priests, who on this day are said to have shaved themselves and trimmed their hair, which had been allowed to grow during the preceding six weeks. An old chronicle says 'people would this day shere theyr hedes, and clypp theyr berdes, and so make them honest against Easter Day.'
^"The old English name for Maundy Thursday was 'Sheer Thursday', when the penitents obtained absolution, trimmed their hair and beards, and washed in preparation for Easter" (Hungarian SaintsArchived 5 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine).
^ abPeter C. Bower. The Companion to the Book of Common Worship. Geneva Press. Maundy Thursday (or le mandé; Thursday of the Mandatum, Latin, commandment). The name is taken from the first few words sung at the ceremony of the washing of the feet, 'I give you a new commandment' (John 13:34); also from the commandment of Christ that we should imitate His loving humility in the washing of the feet (John 13:14-17). The term mandatum (maundy), therefore, was applied to the rite of foot-washing on this day.
^ abHow is oil used in worship?. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. 2013. p. 2. This service, also called a Chrism Mass, is held during Holy Week and presided over by a synodical bishop. At this unique liturgy, the blessing of oil is coupled with a renewal of vows for rostered leaders. The traditional day for this service is Maundy Thursday).
^The word is of medieval origin and may refer to the possible use of green vestments on this day in some regions, or to a custom of eating green salad or pancakes (cf. Deutsches Wörterbuch by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm). The name could also derive from Old High Germangr?nan ("mourn" or "wail", cf. Engl. groan), referring to the death of Jesus or the penitents' return to the eucharist on this day in older times (K. Küppers, "Gründonnerstag", In Lexikon des Mittelalters, vol. IV,, DTV, Munich, 2003).
^Festivals of Western Europe, by Dorothy Gladys Spicer, 1958