Maundy Thursday

For the 2006 film, see Maundy Thursday (film).
"Holy Thursday" redirects here. For other uses, see Holy Thursday (disambiguation).
Maundy Thursday

The Mystical Supper, Icon by Simon Ushakov (1685).
Also called Holy Thursday
Covenant Thursday
Great and Holy Thursday
Thursday of Mysteries
Sheer Thursday
Observed by Christians
Type Christian / Civic
Significance commemorates the Maundy and Last Supper of Jesus Christ
Observances Mass; distribution of Maundy money
Date Thursday before Easter
2015 date

April 2 (Western)

April 9 (Eastern)
2016 date

March 24 (Western)

April 28 (Eastern)
2017 date

April 13 (Western)

April 13 (Eastern)
2018 date

March 29 (Western)

April 5 (Eastern)
Frequency annual
Related to Holy Week

Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Great and Holy Thursday, Sheer Thursday, and Thursday of Mysteries) 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.[1] It is the fifth day of Holy Week, and is preceded by Holy Wednesday and followed by Good Friday.[2]

The date is always between 19 March and 22 April inclusive, but these dates fall on different days depending on whether the Gregorian or Julian calendar is used liturgically. Eastern churches generally use the Julian calendar, and so celebrate this feast throughout the 21st century between 1 April and 5 May in the more commonly used Gregorian calendar. The liturgy held on the evening of Maundy Thursday initiates the Easter Triduum, the period which commemorates the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ; this period includes Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and ends on the evening of Easter.[1][3] The Mass or service of worship is normally celebrated in the evening, when Friday begins according to Jewish tradition, as, according to the three Synoptic Gospels, the Last Supper was held on the feast of Passover;[4] according to the Gospel of John, however, Jesus had his last supper on Nisan 14, the night before the first night of Passover.

Names in English

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 the others is not evenly distributed. What is considered the normal name for the day varies according to geographical area and religious allegiance. Thus, although in England "Maundy Thursday" is the normal term, the term is rarely 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 is sometimes confusingly called Easter Thursday, which more correctly refers to the following Thursday after Easter.

The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, which is the mother Church of the Anglican Communion, uses the name "Maundy Thursday" for this observance.[5] The corresponding publication of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, which is another province of the Anglican Communion, also refers to the Thursday before Easter as "Maundy Thursday".[6] Throughout the Anglican Communion, the term "Holy Thursday" is a synonym for Ascension Day.[5][7][8]

In the present day, within the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, the name "Holy Thursday" is used in its official English-language liturgical books.[9] The personal ordinariates in the Catholic Church, which have an Anglican patrimony, retain the traditional English term "Maundy Thursday", however.[10] An article in the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia used the term "Maundy Thursday",[11] and some Catholic writers use the same term either primarily,[12] or alternatively.[13]

The United Methodist Church uses the name "Holy Thursday" in its Book of Worship,[14] but in other official sources it uses both "Maundy Thursday"[15][16] and "Holy Thursday".[17][18]

Both names are used by other Christian denominations as well, including the Lutheran Church[19][20][21] or portions of the Reformed Church.[22][23][24] The Presbyterian Church uses the term "Maundy Thursday" to refer to the holy day in its official sources.[24][25]

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the name for the holy day is, in the Byzantine Rite, "Great and Holy Thursday"[26] or "Holy Thursday",[27][28] and in Western Rite Orthodoxy "Maundy Thursday",[29][30] "Holy Thursday"[31] or both.[32] The Coptic Orthodox Church uses both the terms "Maundy Thursday" and "Covenant Thursday" for the holy day.[33]

In the Maronite Church[34] and the Syriac Orthodox Church,[35] the name is "Thursday of Mysteries".

"Maundy Thursday" is the official name in the civil legislation of England[36] and the Philippines.[37]

The day has also been known in English as Shere Thursday (also spelled Sheer Thursday), from the word shere (meaning "clean" or "bright").[38] 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,[39] or for a combination of reasons.[40] This name is a cognate to the word still used throughout Scandinavia, such as Swedish "Skärtorsdag", Danish "Skærtorsdag", Norwegian "Skjærtorsdag", Faroese "Skírhósdagur" and "Skírisdagur" and Icelandic "Skírdagur". Skär in Swedish is also an archaic word for wash.

Derivation of the name "Maundy"

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 (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 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. In 2016 it was announced that the Roman Missal had been revised to permit women to have their feet washed on Maundy Thursday; previously it permitted only males to do so.[41]

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.[42][43] 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.[44]


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Western Christianity

"The Last Supper" - museum copy of Master Paul's sculpture

Holy Thursday is notable for being the day on which the Chrism Mass is celebrated in each diocese. Usually held in the diocese's cathedral, in this Mass the holy oils are blessed by the bishop, consisting of the chrism, oil of the sick, and oil of catechumens. The oil of the catechumens and chrism are to be used on the coming Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil, for the baptism and confirmation of those entering the church.

The Washing of the Feet is a traditional component of the celebration among many Christian groups, including the Armenian,[45] Ethiopian, Eastern Catholic, Schwarzenau (German Baptist) Brethren, Church of the Brethren,[46] Mennonite, and Roman Catholic traditions. The practice is also becoming increasingly popular as a part of the Maundy Thursday liturgy in the Anglican/Episcopal,[47] Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches,[48] as well as in other Protestant denominations. 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.[49] 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,[50][51] 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.[52]

Eastern Christianity

Orthodox icon of Christ washing the feet of the Apostles (16th century, Pskov school of iconography).

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the liturgical colours are brighter, white being common. On this day alone during Holy Week, the fast is relaxed to permit consumption of wine and oil.

The primary service of this day is Vespers combined with the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great at which is read the first Passion Gospel (John 13:31-18:1), 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 will I give Thee a kiss like Judas. But like the Thief will I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom.

When necessary to replenish the sacrament for communing the sick at a time not following a divine liturgy, an additional Lamb (Host) is consecrated on this day, intincted, covered, and left to dry until Holy Saturday when it is divided, completely dried with a candle flame, and the pieces placed in the artophorion.

In cathedrals and monasteries the ceremony of the Washing of Feet is normally performed.

When there is need to consecrate more chrism, that is performed by patriarchs and other heads of the various autocephalous churches.

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:

Beginning on Holy and Great Thursday, the memorial service for the dead is forbidden until after Thomas Sunday.

Local customs

Customs and names from around the world

Bishop Sebouh Chouldjian (Armenian Apostolic Church) washing the feet of children during the Washing of Feet ceremony.

Public holiday

Christus, by the Lutheran Lucas Cranach the Elder. This woodcut of John 13:14-17 is from Passionary of the Christ and Antichrist.

Maundy Thursday is a public holiday in Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark,[57] Iceland, Mexico, Norway, Paraguay, the Philippines, Spain,[58] and Venezuela, and in Kerala State of India. Certain German states declare a public holiday for public sector employees. In the UK, civil servants were traditionally granted a half-day holiday (known as "privilege leave") on this date, but that was abolished after 2012.

Seven Churches Visitation

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 one, seven, or fourteen churches to pray, usually reciting the Stations of the Cross. Today, the Stations are often divided amongst the churches; until the 1970s all fourteen were recited in each church. It is a chiefly urban custom as churches are located closer to each other in cities, and supposedly because the ritual has roots in the Spanish Era, when the seven churches of Intramuros were still standing.[59] The original intent of the custom was to visit the Blessed Sacrament in the Altar of Repose on Maundy Thursday evening, but since no specific prayers apart from those for the Pope were prescribed, the Stations of the Cross were used instead. Some Filipino liturgists, however, have sought to revive the original vigil with the Blessed Sacrament, and have composed prayers to guide 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.

See also

References and footnotes

  1. 1 2 Gail Ramshaw (2004). Three Day Feast: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. Augsburg Books. Retrieved 2009-04-11. In the liturgies of the Three Days, the service for Maundy Thursday includes both, telling the story of Jesus' last supper and enacting the footwashing.
  2. Leonard Stuart (1909). New century reference library of the world's most important knowledge: complete, thorough, practical, Volume 3. Syndicate Pub. Co. Retrieved 2009-04-11. Holy Week, or Passion Week, the week which immediately precedes Easter, and is devoted especially to commemorate the passion of our Lord. The Days more especially solemnized during it are Spy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.
  3. Peter C. Bower. The Companion to the Book of Common Worship. Geneva Press. Retrieved 2009-04-11. 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.
  4. Gwyneth Windsor, John Hughes (Nov 21, 1990). Worship and Festivals. Heinemann. Retrieved 2009-04-11. 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.
  5. 1 2 "A Table of the Vigils, Fasts and Days of Abstinence to be observed in the year" (PDF). Church of England. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  6. "The Calendar of the Church Year", p. 17.
  7. Thomas Ignatius M. Forster (1828). Circle of the Seasons, and Perpetual key to the Calendar and Almanack. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 1 April 2012. Holy Thursday or Ascension Day. Festum Ascensionis. Le Jeudi Saint d' Ascension.
  8. George Soane (1847). New Curiosities of Literature and Book of the Months. Churton. Retrieved 1 April 2012. Ascension Day, or Holy Thursday. This, as the name sufficiently implies, is the anniversary of Christ's Ascension.
  9. "General Instruction of the Roman Missal, with adaptations for England and Wales" (PDF). Catholic Bishops' Conference of England & Wales. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  10. "Holy Week and Easter with the Ordinariate in London" (PDF). Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham. 2014. Retrieved 21 March 2016.
  11. "Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday)". Catholic Encyclopedia. New Advent. 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2014.
  12. Authors, Various (2008). Mariology: A Guide for Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and Consecrated Persons. Mark I. Miravalle, S.T.D. p. 659. ISBN 9781579183554. Retrieved 5 April 2014. The season of Lent prepares the Church for the celebration of the Paschal Mystery during the sacred Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.
  13. Akin, Jimmy (27 March 2013). "10 things you need to know about Holy Thursday". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 5 April 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.
  14. "United Methodist Book of Worship: Scripture Readings listed according to the Books of the Bible". General Board of Discipleship, The United Methodist Church. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  15. "Holy Week Service for Midweek, Maundy Thursday, or Good Friday". United Methodist Church. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  16. "Maundy Thursday". United Methodist Church. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  17. "Preaching Helps for Holy Thursday, Year B (April 17, 2003)". United Methodist Church. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
  18. "Worship Planning Helps for Holy Thursday (April 8, 2004)". United Methodist Church. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
  19. "What is Holy Thursday?" (PDF). University Lutheran Chapel, Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  20. "Maundy Thursday". Historic Trinity Lutheran Church, Detroit. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  21. "Counting. A little history of how '40 Days of Lent' came to be". The Lutheran, the magazine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  22. "Maundy Thursday". Reformed Church in America (RCA). Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  23. "Calendar 2009 Year of the Reformer John Calvin". The Hungarian Reformed Church in the US and Diaspora. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  24. 1 2 "Calendar". Suydam Street Reformed Church. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  25. The Presbyterian Handbook. Geneva Press. 2006. p. 75. Retrieved 1 April 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.
  26. "Great and Holy Thursday". Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  27. "Great Lent: Theology, Homilies, Services, Resources". St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney (Dallas area) Texas. Retrieved 2009-04-12.
  28. "The Historical Development of Holy Week Services In the Orthodox/Byzantine Rite". Antiochan Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. Retrieved 2009-04-12.
  29. "Saint Mark's Church: An Antiochian Orthodox Parish in the Western Rite Tradition" (PDF). Western Orthodox. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  30. "Oratory of Our Lady of Glastonbury: Western Rite Orthodox Outreach to Southern Ontario" (PDF). Oratory of Our Lady of Glastonbury. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  31. "Orthodox Liturgical Index". The Society of Clerks Secular of Saint Basil. Retrieved 2009-04-12.
  32. "Lent" (PDF). Holy Incarnation Orthodox Church. Retrieved 2009-04-12.
  33. "G Maundy (Covenant) Thursday". Coptic Orthodox Church. Retrieved 2009-04-12.
  34. Liturgical Notes: Thursday of Mysteries Archived March 13, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  35. Thomas Joseph. "Liturgical Calendar of the Syriac Orthodox Church". Retrieved 2013-08-13.
  36. "The Local Authorities (Referendums) (Petitions and Directions) (England) (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2001". United Kingdom Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 2009-04-11.
  37. "Republic Act No. 9492". Philippine Government. Retrieved 2009-01-26.
  38. Charles Dickens. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Sine nomine. Retrieved 22 March 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."
  39. "New Catholic Dictionary". Retrieved 2013-08-13.
  40. "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 Saints).
  41. Daniel Burke, CNN Religion Editor (21 January 2016). "Pope Francis changes foot-washing rite to include women -". CNN.
  42. Philip Schaff: History of the Christian Church, Volume III
  43. Why is the Thursday preceding Easter known both as Holy Thursday and Maundy Thursday?
  44. Shepherd of the Springs, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod
  45. "Maundy Thursday". The Armenian Church. Retrieved 2013-08-13.
  46. "Churches of the Brethren". 2013-08-08. Retrieved 2013-08-13.
  47. Episcopal and the African Methodist Episcopal Church Book of Occasional Services, p. 93 (1994)
  48. "What is Maundy Thursday?". United Methodist Church. Retrieved 2007-03-21.
  49. "Maundy Thursday". Catholic Culture. Retrieved 2007-03-21.
  50. Missale Romanum 1962, p. 161
  51.  Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Stripping of an Altar". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  52. Pfatteicher, Philip H; Messerli, Carlos R (1979). Maundy Thursday: Stripping the Altar. Lutheran Church. ISBN 978-0-8066-1676-6. Retrieved 2007-03-21.
  53. The Royal Mint
  54. 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 German grīnan ("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).
  55. Festivals of Western Europe, by Dorothy Gladys Spicer, 1958
  56. Sunish George J Alumkalnal, Pesaha celebration of Nasranis: a sociocultural analysis. Journal of Indo Judaic studies No 13, 2013 pages 57-71
  57. "Planning your". VisitDenmark. Retrieved 2013-08-13.
  58. except in the regions of Catalonia and Valencia
  59. Only Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church remain in situ after the 1945 Bombing of Manila during Second World War.
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