Holy ‘Maundy’ Thursday

Most scholars agree that the English word Maundy  in that name for the day is derived through Old French and English mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis …” (“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John 13:34 by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet; thus demonstrating that Christ even as their “leader” was to be a servant of all – and that the greatest must become and be also the least.

Others theorize that the English name “Maundy Thursday” arose from “maundsor baskets” or “maundy purses” of alms which the king of England distributed to certain poor at Whitehall before attending Mass on that day.

According to the New Testament, Jesus gave the Passover meal a new meaning, as he prepared himself and his disciples for his death in the  upper room during the Last Supper. He identified the matzah and cup of wine as his body soon to be sacrificed and his blood soon to be shed.  Paul states, “Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed”;this refers to the Passover requirement to have no yeast in the house and to the allegory of Jesus as the Paschal Lamb.

Whatever the title, the events of this day commemorate the foot washing and the Passover meal now known as “The Last Supper” that Jesus shared with his small band of followers. This final Passover meal, within the Christian tradition, serves as the ‘institution of’ and the example which is still followed within the Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion, and Eucharistic practices of Christian communities of faith world-wide.

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