Thursday, April 2, 2015

Maundy Thursday

Have you ever wondered why Christians celebrate Holy Week? What is it exactly? Why is it?
We all know about Christmas and Easter, traditionally the two church services that we all attend, even if we don't go to any other services all year. We dress up in our finest. In my family, it's when we all got our "Easter outfits." Not to mention Easter baskets with goodies and somewhere in the world an Easter Bunny hopped along the bunny trail, letting us know "Easter was on its way."

Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny have become the commercial saints of the most holy of holy days.

But why? 

I wrote about Palm Sunday last week. Jesus of Nazareth had been preaching for some three years. His disciples didn't want him to go into Jerusalem. There was a bad feeling in the atmosphere. Jewish priest spys were infiltrating the crowds who followed Jesus. But, Jesus knew what he had to do. He rode in on a donkey colt, a symbol of kings. (or so I've been told.) 

Then there was the temple uproar. Jesus was furious at the commercialism that ran in the temple. House of worship? No! It had become a den of thieves. So, he created an uproar, second only to the imagination of Cecil B. DeMille. 

But there would be a price to pay. He knew it. He could flee the city, but he couldn't. That wasn't his destiny. Tragic in a way. But, for us, salvation. Bless him for that. 

Maundy (command) Thursday begins the Holy Trinity of Holy week: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. Maundy Thursday was the beginning of the Jewish feast of Passover (God passed over the house of the Children of Israel when he killed the first born Egyptian children-but that's another story) 

Timeline: Maundy Thursday was when Jesus had his last meal with his disciples-the breaking of the bread and drinking of wine, ("this is my body...this is my blood.") This was also the first communion. The Holy Eucharest we celebrate every Sunday. (at least in my church) the night Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (which has become the all-time favorite symbol of betrayal). This was the night he washed his disciples feet to commemorate his love for them and for each other. This was also the night he and his disciples rested in Gethsemane. And the night they, too, betrayed him by falling asleep. 

An interesting tidbit is the name Maundy Thursday. We use this name in the United States as they do in the England, and is predominant elsewhere, but there are a litany of other names used throughout the world. Holy Thursday, Ascension Day, Covenant Thursday (used in the Coptic Orthodox Church) Shere Thursday and other names translated from the country's native language. 

What does the name mean? Most scholars believe it is derived from Middle English or the French (mande) and according to some sources means "to beg." It's a tradition in England that the Queen or King give alms to the poor on Maundy Thursday. I've also seen the word used to mean "command." So, you can write and tell me. 

In many churches, the priest or bishop will wash the feet of parishioners as a reminder to love one another and keep the Christian life, and he will anoint oils in preparation for the holy vigil. There's also the tradition, in many countries, of visiting seven churches during this period. After the service concludes, the altar is stripped bare in preparation for the Easter service, which we know celebrates Jesus' resurrection. 

In many countries, Maundy Thursday is a national holiday. In the US, it is not. However, many schools will combine their Spring breaks to coincide with Holy Week. 

I hope this has been helpful. I researched this through several online and offline sources (church) Wikepedia was a helpful major resource. 

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