Today is Maundy Thursday in the Christian calendar. It is the day before Good Friday and commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ and his Apostles. The Last Supper is an important event for Christians because it is where Jesus demonstrated his love for his disciples and his status as “servant king” by washing their feet before they ate their meal. Jesus issued his new commandment to them: “A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another as I have loved you”.
The term “Maundy” comes from the that phrase in Latin (Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos) – “mandatum” meaning “commandment”.
The Last Supper is the event where Jesus revealed God’s new promise, that by his death and resurrection, sin was washed clean and death was not the end of life. He broke bread, representing the breaking of his body, and shared wine with them which represented the spilling of his blood on the cross. It was part of the Passover feast which is a Jewish tradition where a sacrificial lamb was eaten in thanks to God for him sparing them, setting them free from Egyptian slavery some 3,300 years earlier. Christians recognise Jesus as “the lamb of God”, the one who was sacrificed so that everyone else might live.
There are several traditions around Maundy Thursday, particularly in Europe. Among them, here in England, the Queen distributes “Maundy Money” to selected people in England, a tradition that dates back over 1600 years. Before the tradition died out about 400 years ago (possibly because the risk of catching a fatal disease from them proved too great for the King), the monarch would wash the feet of the recipients of Maundy Money too. Nowadays, that particular practice is carried out by some Catholic priests as part of saying mass, and it is symbolically done in churches all over the world by others.
Other Christians refer to Maundy Thursday as “Holy Thursday”. I know it is a Holy day, but I do like the history and quirkiness attached to “Maundy Thursday”. I think some antiquarian terms are worth hanging on to, especially when we understand where they come from.
What about you? Do you call today “Maundy Thursday”, or “Holy Thursday”?
Do you know anyone who has received Maundy Money from the Queen? Do they like to talk about it? Can you stop them talking about it??
Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts.