After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord-and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.." ~ John 13:12-16
Falling in the last week of the Lenten season, Maundy Thursday is of religious significance in all the Christian denominations. Also referred to by other names like Holy Thursday, Thursday of Mysteries, Covenant Thursday, this Christian feast falls on April 05, 2012. Being the fifth day of the Holy Week (which starts from Palm Sunday), Maundy Thursday is preceded by Holy Wednesday and followed by Good Friday, the day when Christ was crucified. Maundy or Holy Thursday was the day the first Holy Mass was celebrated. It is believed that Jesus celebrated the feast of the Passover, also referred to as 'The Last Supper' with His disciples on the day before He was crucified. This was the day when the Christian sacrament of the Holy Eucharist was commemorated by Christ. Maundy Thursday is one of the oldest celebrations in the Church.
History and Facts about Maundy Thursday
The history of Maundy Thursday can be traced way back to the first century when the Church declared the Thursday before Good Friday as a significant day. The term Maundy Thursday is derived from the Latin word 'Dias Mandatum', which means the day of the new commandment. In John 13:34, Christ reminds us about the commandment He gave to humanity 'A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another'. It is believed that Jesus gave this command during the Last Supper. After the Passover, Jesus and his disciples went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. Here He was betrayed and arrested to be crucified the next day, i.e Friday, which is now commemorated as Good Friday.
During the 12th century, the English Church began the tradition of distributing money (Maundy Money) to citizens who were poor and could not afford a living. The money was specially minted for this purpose and given away in ceremonial purses, colored red and white. This custom was carried on till the 17th century. Different countries celebrate Maundy Thursday in their own way. In England, it is the distribution of money by the King or Queen to the poor people, while in Germany, this day is referred to as 'Green Day', where the color green is symbolic of weeping and grief. Green vegetables, spinach in particular, are eaten on this day and this act is considered to be a way of humbling oneself before God.
In the tradition of Catholicism, the ending of the week is known as the Easter Triduum, which begins on Thursday with the Eucharistic celebration and ends on Easter Sunday. The rituals carried out during the Holy Mass are observances of the incidents that took place during Jesus' time. During the Mass, which is usually held in the evening, the holy oils, to be used for the coming year are consecrated and the celebrants also renew their vows of celibacy, commitment and service to the Church.
At some point in the middle of the liturgical service, the priest performs the ritual of washing the feet of twelve men, mimicking Jesus' action. In the Bible, it is mentioned that Jesus, after the Passover, washed the feet of His disciples, directing them to do the same. This is followed till today, in some denominations. From among the people, twelve men are called forward and the priest ritually washes and dries their feet. Known as the Pedilavium, this was first practiced in the 13th century. The feet washing ceremony is a depiction of Christ's service to mankind. It signifies that the priests should follow the Christlike function to show their sacrifice and humility. The bells in the Church fall silent on Maundy Thursday, till Easter Sunday. Instead of bells, rattles and other noisemakers are used to call the faithful to the liturgical service.
Maundy Thursday is celebrated elaborately in different styles across the globe. People normally fast and practice repentance for the cleansing of the spirit so that they can celebrate Easter with a pure and contrite heart.