Commonly known as Holy Thursday, ‘Maundy Thursday’ is celebrated the Thursday before Good Friday in Holy Week. For many Catholics and Christians alike, it is a special time during which we remember, “the day of the new commandment”. It was at the last supper that Jesus institutionalised the Eucharist and imparted to the disciples His core philosophy and commandment, “Love one another as I have loved you”.
For two millennia these immortal words and ritual have reverberated throughout the globe, touching the hearts and minds of billions of people, transforming lives and leading souls back to the path of God. It is a profound moment that has generated much interest throughout this period of human history and Holy Thursday has collected its own share of trivia and stories.
We at CatholicNewsTT were curious about some of the little-known facts and traditions of this sacred day. What are top three things we should know about Maundy Thursday?
1. The origins of the name ‘Maundy’.
As Catholics and followers of Christ, we are mandated to love one another.
According to Britannica.com:
“The name is thought to be a Middle English derivation taken from a Latin anthem sung in Roman Catholic churches on that day: “Mandatum novum do vobis” (‘a new commandment I give to you’, John 13:34).
“Recorded around 1250–1300, the word ‘maundy’ comes from the Old French ‘mande’, in turn from the Latin mandātum, which means ‘mandate or command.’ As you may have guessed, this Latin word is the source of the English mandate.”
2. ‘Maundy Thursday’ is also known as ‘Green Thursday’ or ‘Sheer Thursday’.
It is a time of ‘green’ and clean traditions.
“The early practice of giving penitents a green branch as a token for completing their Lenten penance, and Sheer Thursday (clean Thursday), which refers to the ceremonial washing of altars on this day.”
“…It also played a role in rural customs. A popular assumption is that it is called “green” Thursday because of the green vegetables, people eat on this Fast day, spinach being a favourite. In Germany, the tradition is to eat a big fresh salad.”
3. Sundown heralds the beginning of the Sacred/Paschal Triduum – the holiest days of the Catholic Church.
The summit of the Liturgical Year begins on the evening of Holy Thursday, the Passover.
“The Paschal Triduum is to the entire year what Sunday is to the week. [It] is a single liturgical celebration that spans three days. It begins on the Thursday before Easter and ends the evening of Easter Sunday. “Isn’t that four days?” you might ask yourself. The Church counts these days liturgically, so the ‘day’ begins the evening before. (Remember, ‘evening came, and morning followed, the first day’ from Genesis). Thus: Thursday evening to Friday evening (Day 1), Friday evening to Saturday evening (Day 2), Saturday evening to Sunday evening (Day 3).”
“Later that night, after sundown – because Passover began at sundown–the Holy Thursday Liturgy takes place, marking the end of Lent and the beginning of the sacred “Triduum,” or three, of Holy Week. These days are the three holiest days in the Catholic Church.
This Mass stresses the importance Jesus puts on the humility of service, and the need for cleansing with water, a symbol of baptism. Also emphasised are the critical importance of the Eucharist and the sacrifice of Christ’s Body, which we now find present in the consecrated Host.”
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