Maundy Thursday is also known as the Holy Thursday since it commences on the Holy Week as per the observations of the Christian world. The day before this is known as the Holy Wednesday, while the day after Maundy Thursday is the Good Friday.
From the evening of the Maundy Thursday begins the period of Paschal Easter Triduum, the three days including Good Friday and Holy Saturday that end in the evening of Easter Sunday. This period of three days are believed to commemorate the three significant factors of Jesus’ life – passion, death and resurrection.
Maundy Thursday signifies the day of Jesus’ Last Supper with the Apostles as narrated in the Canonical Gospels which lead to the initiation of the Eucharist or the Holy Communion. All Christian Churches observe this day with much reverence.
Maundy Thursday in the next five years:
- In 2014, Maundy Thursday is on Thursday, April 17.
- In 2015, Maundy Thursday is on Thursday, April 02.
- In 2016, Maundy Thursday is on Thursday, March 24.
- In 2017, Maundy Thursday is on Thursday, April 13.
- In 2018, Maundy Thursday is on Thursday, March 29.
Etymology of the term Maundy:
According to most scholars, the English word “Maundy” used in the name Maundy Thursday has been derived from the Latin word ‘Mandatum’ which was changed into the Middle English or Old French ‘Mandé’ finally leading to the term Maundy. Mandatum was the first word of the phrase uttered by Jesus in the Gospel of John 13:34 – "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos", which when translated means – "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you". Jesus made this statement to explain to the Apostles the significance of Him washing their feet. This is the reason why during Maundy Thursday celebrations in many Churches the Priest or Bishop or Minister washes the feet of the congregation. Here the Priest or Bishop or Minister is considered to represent Jesus. Usually from the parishioners twelve people are selected for the purpose and are honored on this day. These twelve people are considered to represent the people of the parish in general.
Some other scholars have opined that the name “Maundy Thursday” has its origin in the "maundsor baskets" or "maundy purses". These contained the alms that the King of England gave to certain poor people at Whitehall before he attended the Mass on Holy Thursday. From this perspective, the scholars put forward that the word Maundy has originated from the Latin word mendicare or the French term mendier or the English expression maund , which signigy “to beg”.
In the United States, this day is not considered to be a federal holiday, as such businesses and organizations operate according to their regular schedule. The same is applicable in case of public transportation that runs as per schedule on this day. Schools and other educational institutions also operate following the normal course of routine. Some Church Schools may have special prayers or blessing services organized to mark the day.
Church services are common to observe Maundy Thursday, however, the time of Service varies from one Church to another. In most Catholic Churches the special prayer services for the occasion are generally held in the evenings in memoriam of Jesus’ Last Supper with the Apostles. Communion or Eucharist is offered to the congregation. To commemorate the event of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples, some Priests or Ministers perform the ritual of washing the feet of the parishioners. In keeping with the Christian belief, Holy oils are blessed. This symbolizes the fact that all these sacraments find their root in Jesus Christ. Church Choirs usually include the songs — Pange Lingua, Gloria, Ubi Caritas etc – not essentially on this day only but during the period of the Holy Week in general. In some Churches there is a tradition of offering potluck meals, usually suppers, to the congregation members after the Maundy Thursday services in commemoration of Jesus’ Last Supper. Meals on this day generally include roast lamb, wine, bitter herbs etc. Some of these meals are organized as fundraisers and the money thus generated are used for charitable causes. This is also time for the observant Christians to donate for causes or charity. Food is often offered to the poor.