Maundy Thursday (also known as Holy Thursday, Covenant Thursday, Great and Holy Thursday, Sheer Thursday, and Thursday of Mysteries) is theChristian holy day falling on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates theMaundy and Last Supper of Jesus Christ with the Apostles as described in theCanonical 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 depending on whether the Gregorian or Julian calendar is used liturgically. 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 thepassion, death, and resurrection of Christ; this period includes Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and ends on the evening of Easter.[1The Mass or service of worship is normally celebrated in the evening, when Friday begins according toJewish tradition, as, according to the three Synoptic Gospels, the Last Supperwas held on the feast of Passover; according to the Gospel of John, however, Jesus has his last supper on Nisan 14, the night before the first night of Passover.
Holy Thursday is notable for being the day on which the ChrismMass is celebrated in each diocese. Usually held in the diocese’s cathedral, in this Mass the holy oils are blessed by the bishop, consisting of the chrism, oil of the sick, and oil of catechumens. The oil of the catechumens and chrism are to be used on the coming Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil, for thebaptism and confirmation of those entering the church.
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. The practice is also becoming increasingly popular as a part of the Maundy Thursday liturgy in theAnglican/Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches, as well as in otherProtestant denominations. In the Catholic Church and in some Anglican churches, 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 exposed, at least in the Catholic Mass, until the service concludes with a procession taking it to the place of reposition. The altar is later stripped bare, as are all other altars in the church except the Altar of Repose. In pre-1970 editions, the Roman Missal envisages this being done ceremonially, to the accompaniment of Psalm 21/22, a practice which continues in many Anglican churches. In otherChristian denominations, such as the Lutheran Church or Methodist Church, the stripping of the altar and other items on thechancel also occurs, as a preparation for the somber Good Friday service.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the liturgical colours are brighter, white being common. On this day alone during Holy Week, the fast is relaxed to permit consumption of wine and oil.
The primary service of this day is Vespers combined with the Liturgy of St. Basil the Great at which is read the first Passion Gospel (John 13:31-18:1), known as the „Gospel of the Testament“, and many of the normal hymns of the Divine Liturgy are substituted with the following troparion:
Of Thy Mystical Supper, O Son of God, accept me today as a communicant; for I will not speak of Thy Mystery to Thine enemies, neither will I give Thee a kiss like Judas. But like the Thief will I confess Thee: Remember me, O Lord, in Thy Kingdom.
When necessary to replenish the sacrament for communing the sick at a time not following a divine liturgy, an additional Lamb (Host) is consecrated on this day, intincted, covered, and left to dry until Holy Saturday when it is divided, completely dried with a candle flame, and the pieces placed in the artophorion.
In cathedrals and monasteries the ceremony of the Washing of Feet is normally performed.
When there is need to consecrate more chrism, that is performed by patriarchs and other heads of the various autocephalouschurches.
In the evening, after the Liturgy, all of the hangings and vestments are changed to black or some other dark colour, to signify the beginning of the Passion. Anticipating the Matins of Friday morning, the Holy Passion service of the reading of the Twelve Gospels is conducted. In these readings Christ’s last instructions to his disciples are presented, as well as the prophecy of the drama of the Cross, Christ’s prayer, and his new commandment. The twelve readings are:
- John 13:31-18:1
- John 18:1-29
- Matthew 26:57-75
- John 18:28–19:16
- Matthew 27:3-32
- Mark 15:16-32
- Matthew 27:33-54
- Luke 23:32-49
- John 19:19-37
- Mark 15:43-47
- John 19:38-42
- Matthew 27:62-66
Beginning on Holy and Great Thursday, the memorial service for the dead is forbidden until after Thomas Sunday.