Friday, April 10, 2009

Maundy Thursday

Most of the Christian world refers to the Thursday before Easter as "Maundy Thursday." I have for years been asking around, asking clergy and lay people alike, trying to find out if anybody knew what the word "maundy" means, but nobody seemed to be able to tell me. The dictionary only explained what I already knew, that it was "the Thursday before Easter, observed in the Christian Church as a commemoration of the Last Supper."

Last night, Lyndale United Church of Christ held its Maundy Thursday celebration at "It's Greek to Me," a popular Greek restaurant in Minneapolis. It was an interesting way to commemorate the last supper, with an actual meal. Pastor Don had prepared a liturgy, printed on a bulletin which he passed around to the meal participants. So the worship consisted of prayer and remembrance, sharing of (pita) bread and grape juice, a hand washing, interspersed with discussion and conversation. And of course food.

It so happened that I was sitting at the table right next to Pastor Don. At one point in the evening, I leaned over and asked him, "So, I've been asking people over the years, and nobody seems to be able to tell me, What does the word 'maundy' mean?"

Don smiled and pointed at words that were printed in the bulletin he had handed around earlier:

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

He poked his finger just under the word "commandment." "I think 'maundy' is from the Latin," he ventured.

"Of course!" I exclaimed, "'Mandare' is Latin for 'to command.' Mandare. Maundy."

A light went on in my heart. For centuries, Christians had been commemorating Jesus' last supper with his disciples. And they named the day of that commemoration after the most important thing that Jesus did at that supper, giving them a "new commandment," a new law.


Maundy Thursday is the day that Christians are supposed to remember that under the reign of Christ there is one law above all others. That we love one another with the same sacrificial love that he loved us. That is how we would be recognized as his disciples.

That seems like a word we ought not to have forgotten the meaning of.


Beck said...

I always learn something from you! Happy Easter!

Alan said...

I coulda told you THAT, John. Comes from the Latin Mandatum, "commandment". Like "mandatory"? So next time you have that kind of question don't wait another 10 years, just ping me!

Bravone said...

Thanks John. Happy Easter.