Maundy Thursday: April 1
Maundy Thursday is a religious observance for Christians all over the world.
Maundy Thursday is a Christian feast that is celebrated on the Thursday before Easter. This day celebrates the final meal of Jesus Christ with his apostles in the Cenacle, just before his Passion. It is celebrated after Holy Wednesday and before Good Friday. It is also known as Holy Thursday, Thursday of Mysteries, and Great and Holy Thursday.
History of Maundy Thursday
Maundy derives from the Latin word mandatum, meaning “commandment”. At the table of the Last Supper, Jesus gave the Apostles a new commandment: “And I now give you a new commandment, love one another. As I loved you, so you must love one another,” from the Gospel of John.
It was also the night when Jesus instituted the Eucharist, as he said that the disciples should break the bread in his memory. The Last Supper was served in the Cenacle or Upper Room, believed to be the house owned by John Mark and his mother, Mary. It was the same room where the apostles gathered after the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Christian Churches during Mass on Maundy Thursday will follow certain common traits like the forgiving of venial and deadly sins, the washing of the feet, the blessing of the oil to be used in sacraments, the ceasing of the bells until Easter Sunday, and the stripping of the altar. All are symbols of the night of the Last Supper.
Maundy Thursday Traditions, Customs and Activities
On Maundy Thursday, all over the world, Christians celebrate the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with a special Eucharist, during which the celebrating priest will wash and kiss the feet of chosen people from the community. During the morning Mass, the local Bishop will bless oils which will later be used in different sacraments such as baptism. After the mass, as psalms and antiphons are recited, the altar is left empty. The altar is a symbol of Christ, and its emptiness represents the way that he was abandoned by the apostles.
Vigils are held during the night, in remembrance of what happened to Jesus after the Last Supper in Gethsemane just before he was arrested. The churches are decorated in royal purple or red violet, the colors of Lent. Some communities of Christians on this day also organize pot-luck dinners, in significance of the communion lived among the disciples and Jesus during the Last Supper.
In Germany it is known as Green Thursday, and the traditional foods served on this day are green vegetables and green salad. This tradition is also followed in some Latin American countries. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, groups of children shake with wooden rattles in the place of the church bell. In several countries there is a tradition of people visiting seven churches as a sign of penance. In Sweden the day is related to the day of witches, a time when children dress as witches and knock on doors to get candies, just like Halloween in the United States.