Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Great and Holy Thursday, Sheer Thursday, and Thursday of Mysteries, among other names) is the Christian holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates the Maundy and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles as described in the Canonical gospels. It is the fifth day of Holy Week, and is preceded by Holy Wednesday and followed by Good Friday. The date is always between 19 March and 22 April inclusive, but these dates fall on different days on the Gregorian and Julian calendars. Eastern churches generally use the Julian calendar, and so celebrate this feast throughout the 21st century between 1 April and 5 May in the more commonly used Gregorian calendar. The liturgy held on the evening of Maundy Thursday initiates the Easter Triduum, the period which commemorates the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ; this period includes Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and ends on the evening of Easter. The Mass or service of worship is normally celebrated in the evening, when Friday begins according to Jewish tradition, as, according to the three Synoptic Gospels, the Last Supper was held on the feast of Passover, the seder; according to the Gospel of John, however, Jesus had his last supper on Nisan 14, the night before the first night of Passover.
Use of the names “Maundy Thursday”, “Holy Thursday”, and others is not evenly distributed. What is the generally accepted name for the day varies according to geographical area and religious affiliation. Thus, although in England “Maundy Thursday” is the normal term, the term is rarely used in Ireland, Scotland or Canada. People may use one term in a religious context and another in the context of the civil calendar of the country in which they live. The day is sometimes mistakenly called Easter Thursday, which actually refers to the day one week later, that is, the Thursday after Easter. The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, which is the mother Church of the Anglican Communion, uses the name “Maundy Thursday” for this observance.Throughout the Anglican Communion, the term “Holy Thursday” is a synonym for Ascension Day. As of 2017, the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church uses the name “Holy Thursday” however The personal ordinariates in the Catholic Church, which have an Anglican patrimony, retain the traditional English term “Maundy Thursday”, The Methodist Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965) uses the term “Maundy Thursday”; the Book of Worship (1992) uses the term “Holy Thursday”, and other official sources of the United Methodist Church use both “Maundy Thursday” and “Holy Thursday”as do the Lutheran Church, the Reformed Church and The Presbyterian Church. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the name for the holy day is, in the Byzantine Rite, “Great and Holy Thursday” or “Holy Thursday”,. In Western Rite Orthodoxy “Maundy Thursday” or Holy Thursday” while The Coptic Orthodox Church uses the term “Covenant Thursday” or “Thursday of the Covenant”. The Maronite Church and the Syriac Orthodox Church, use the name “Thursday of Mysteries”. The day has also been known in English as Shere Thursday (also spelled Sheer Thursday), from the word shere (meaning “clean” or “bright”).
The English word maundy is derived through Middle English and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum (also the origin of the English word “mandate”), the first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (“A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”) This 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. 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. Thus, “maund” is connected to the Latin mendicare, and French mendier, to beg. The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod states that, if the name was derived from the Latin mandatum, we would call the day Mandy Thursday, or Mandate Thursday, or even Mandatum Thursday; and that the term “Maundy” comes in fact from the Latin mendicare, Old French mendier, and English maund,
The Washing of the Feet is a traditional component of the celebration among many Christian groups, including the Armenian,Ethiopian, Eastern Catholic, Schwarzenau (German Baptist) Brethren, Church of the Brethren,Mennonite, and Roman Catholic traditions. Many Anglican/Episcopal,Lutheran, Methodist, Protestant and Presbyterian churches, also practice it. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper begins as usual, but the Gloria is accompanied by the ringing of bells, which are then silent until the Easter Vigil.After the homily the washing of feet may be performed. The Blessed Sacrament remains, until the service concludes after which The altar is later stripped bare, as are all other altars in the church except the Altar of Repose in preparation for the Good Friday service.
The Chrism Mass is also held on the morning of Maundy Thursday in the diocesean cathedral to celebrate the institution of the priesthood with Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, “Do this in memory of me.”During the Mass, those present are called to renew their baptismal promises; priests and deacons also reaffirm their ministry by renewing the promises made at their ordination. The Mass takes its name from the blessing of the holy oils used in the sacraments throughout the year, which are then given to priests to take back to their parishes. The Rite of Reception of the Oils by representatives of the diocesan parishes is a sign of each parish’s unity with the Bishop and the diocesan Church. Whenever the holy oils are used, the ministry of the bishop who consecrated them is symbolically present. The oils distributed are meant to last all year, although extra oil is also blessed during the Mass and is kept at the cathedral as a reserve if a parish runs out.
The service is a 1967 restoration of the rite recorded in the early 200s by the historian Hippolytus who writes of a ceremony taking place during the Easter Vigil at which two holy oils were blessed and one was consecrated. In the fifth century, the ceremony of the oils was transferred from the Holy Saturday Vigil to Holy Thursday during a special Mass for that purpose, distinct from the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The change took place, partly, because of the large crowds that assembled for the Easter Vigil, but also to emphasize Christ’s institution of this ordained priesthood at Holy Thursday’s Last Supper.