[Rough Draft]

A weblog about god, doubt, insomnia, culture, baseball

4.07.2004

so what's this "maundy" thing?

the thursday before easter is celebrated by christians worldwide as "maundy thursday" or "holy thursday." the feast day, which is one of the oldest celebrations in the liturgical year, commemorates jesus' institution of "the lord's supper" or holy eucharist. the oft mispronounced term "maundy" actually derives from a hymn containing the words "mandatum novum do vobis," which translates as "a new commandment I give to you" (see john 13.34). in john's version of the last supper, jesus predicts his betrayal by judas and peter's denials, then he gives his disciples the "new command" to love one another and, thereby, indicate that they (and we) are true disciples of the christ. in the episcopal and roman catholic churches (as well as many other protestant denominations today) the manudy thursday liturgy contains the "footwashing," which i find is either really meaningful or really distasteful to believers. as weird as it seems to let someone touch our feet, especially in the west for some reason, the rite has always been considered an especially joyful experience b/c it symbolizes jesus' washing us clean from sin. yet many of us find it so offputting to accept such a "service" by another that we may choose to stay away from church on this holy night. i had to get over some spiritual pride, much like peter did earlier on in john 13, in order to come to terms w/ holy thursday, but now it is one of the most meaningful events of the year for me personally. if you've never experienced maundy thursday in a "high church" (one rich in liturgy and ceremony), you should meander down to your local episcopal or r.c. church and check it out, even if you just sit in the back. @ the end of the service in most churches, the altar is stripped, the crosses or crucifixes (there is a difference) are draped in black, the lights are dimmed, and the church assembled files out in silence, thus marking the beginning of the holiest and most solemn three days in the church year. the liturgy for maundy thursday, good friday and the easter vigil on saturday night is actually one of a piece -- together it is called the "triduum."

for more info, check out the entries in the catholic encyclopedia or this simple bbc article. for your own study, the following passages are especially appropriate on this day: psalm 78.14-25; exodus 12.1-14; 1 cor. 11.23-32; and john 13.1-15.

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