The Thursday before Good Friday is called Maundy Thursday. But where does this name come from and what does it mean?
Maundy Thursday commemorates Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, which took place before his arrest. The evening of Maundy Thursday marks the beginning of the so-called “Triduum Sacrum” or “Triduum Paschal”, which means the time of the holy three days or Easter three days. According to ancient tradition, the new day begins on the evening before, so Maundy Thursday evening is also counted as part of the “Triduum Sacrum”.
Although Maundy Thursday is not a public holiday like Good Friday, it has a high status in the liturgy and is an integral part of Holy Week because of its importance as a commemoration of Jesus’ last supper and the institution of the Eucharist.
Why is Maundy Thursday called Maundy Thursday?
Maundy Thursday is a special day in the Christian faith that commemorates the last supper of Jesus Christ with his disciples. The origin of the name is still not fully understood, but there are various theories surrounding the meaning of green.
- One theory of this leads to the Middle High German words “gronan” or “grînan”, meaning “to cry, to lament”. However, it is unclear whether the weeping refers to Christ’s imminent passion and death on the cross, or to the tears of the penitents who were restored to the congregation that day.
- .Another possible origin of the name lies in the liturgical colors, which were not uniformly regulated in the past. On Maundy Thursday it was customary to wear liturgical vestments in green, which can be interpreted as a sign of hope and renewed life. Today, white is established as the liturgical color, but the custom of eating green vegetables and herbs has survived to this day. These should give health and strength for the whole year.
- Another theory is that the name “Maundy Thursday” was derived from the Latin “dies viridium”, which literally means “Day of the Greens”. On this day, the so-called Jubilee Day, the sins of the penitents were forgiven and they became living, “green” wood again (Luke 23:31 EU). This forgiveness of sins is often interpreted as a new beginning and restoration of life, which could reinforce the connection to the color green.
Maundy Thursday customs
Maundy Thursday is of central importance in the Christian faith. Jesus’ last supper with his disciples marked the beginning of a new covenant between God and man, with Jesus acting as mediator. In the services on Maundy Thursday in Catholic and Protestant churches, the institution of the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper is particularly appreciated. The Mass of the Last Supper is solemn and all the bells are rung during the singing of the Gloria. These then fall silent until the Gloria on the Easter Vigil.
Following Mass, the Holy of Holies is brought to a side altar and all ornaments and coverings are removed from the altar to express mourning. In many Catholic communities, the washing of feet is an integral part of the service. It is intended to symbolize active charity and is carried out by priests, bishops or the pope with twelve selected people, based on the example of Jesus. On the morning of Maundy Thursday, the Chrism Mass also takes place, during which the holy oils (catechumen oil, oil of the sick and oil of chrism) are consecrated. These are used in the Catholic Church for various sacraments such as baptism, confirmation or ordination to the priesthood.
Is Maundy Thursday a public holiday here?
Maundy Thursday is not a public holiday in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. April 6th is therefore a normal working day for all employees.
Watch the video below to see why Easter is a particularly emotional celebration for King Charles!