Maundy Thursday

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Last Supper-meal shared by Jesus and His disciples


Maundy Thursday, known officially in the Catholic Church as Holy Thursday, is the Thursday of Holy Week. Maundy Thursday commemorates the institution of the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist was instituted during the Last Supper, the final meal that Jesus shared with His disciples before he was crucified.

Maundy Thursday also celebrates the agony of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot, events that took place on the night before Jesus' crucifixion. The Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday begins the Triduum, which is the three-day celebration of the heart of the Christian faith: Christ's death and resurrection. It starts on the evening of Holy Thursday and concludes with the Evening Prayer (Vespers) of Easter. Thus the Triduum includes Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and reaches it high point at the Great Easter Vigil.

The word Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum, which means "commandment." At the Last Supper, Jesus gave the disciples a new commandment to love one another as he had loved them (John 13:34). Prior to breaking the bread with the disciples, Jesus washed their feet. Maundy Thursday worship services include Holy Communion and sometimes foot washing as well.

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Traditions/Customs

Jesus washing the disciples’ feet

Various traditions and customs are associated with Maundy Thursday, including the reciting of the creed by Catechumens from memory, the washing of feet, reconciliation of penitents, and the consecration of holy oil (chrism). Jesus washed the disciples’ feet as an act of humility and service, thereby setting an example that we should love and serve one another in humility (John 13:3-17). In some churches priests carry out a ceremonial washing of the feet of twelve men on Maundy Thursday as a commemoration of Christ's act.

The modern Western Holy Thursday service has an option for the blessing of chrism and the washing of feet. After the Maundy Thursday evening Mass the altars are stripped, the holy water stoups are emptied, and the Blessed Sacrament is carried through the church in procession to a place of reposition. Traditionally the Pange Lingua is sung during this procession. Perpetual adoration of the blessed sacrament is then encouraged. The consecrated host is then used for Good Friday Masses.

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