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The blog—informal opinions and chat about the parish

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Maundy Thursday

This word, Maundy, seems to be a uniquely high church thing. My childhood church was Presbyterian, but we weren't Ohio Presbyterians—we were the kind of East Coast Presbyterians whose pastor wore a clerical collar even in the middle of the week and on Sunday morning the choir and minister (all properly robed) would solemnly march up the aisle at the beginning of the service. Making the transition to the Episcopal Church was mainly a matter of learning when to kneel and when to cross myself.

Anyhow, I distinctly remember the first time I heard the term Maundy Thursday, thinking someone had foolishly mispronounced "Monday Thursday" (and wondering how those two days got mashed together). It wasn't until much later (in another Presbyterian church) that I learned that the term comes from the Latin "mandatum" ("commandment"), from Christ's words in John 13, "a new commandment I give to you."

As holy days go, this one deserves a lot more recognition. We get excited about Palm Sunday because we get to wave palm fronds around (and some of us craft them into origami crosses during the sermon), but that cannot compare with the intensity of the Last Supper, complete with Jesus's last teaching to his disciples, his object lesson of washing their feet (even the feet of traitor Judas), and the institution of the Eucharist.

At St. Matthew's we will be celebrating Maundy Thursday this year on April 13 at 7 PM, complete with foot-washing (optional, if you are squeamish) and Eucharist.

By the way, I don't expect the Queen of England to show up (she saves those visits for cathedrals in England), but here's a discussion of the roots of Maundy Thursday and the Queen's Royal Maundy. Interesting stuff.

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