Jesus shared the final meal with his disciples, called the Last Supper, on the night before he was crucified. The institution of the Holy Eucharist occurred during this meal, as indicated from the gospel excerpt below:
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matthew 26:26-29 RSV)
Since Scripture and Tradition tell us that Jesus was crucified on a Friday, Jesus shared the important Last Supper with his apostles on a Thursday. The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) seem to suggest that the Last Supper was a passover Meal. However, John suggests that Jesus was crucified before the Passover Meal, on the Day of Preparation. Perhaps the Last Supper was done in anticipation of the Passover Meal, or was a Kiddush or some other religious meal. The gospel of John does not record the Institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, while the synoptic gospels do. However, John's gospel records Jesus washing the disciples' feet. Holy Thursday traditions are derived from all four gospels.
Thus Holy Thursday, also known as Maundy Thursday, is the Thursday of Holy Week, commemorating the Institution of the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Ordination. Holy 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. The Paschal Triduum begins on the evening of Holy Thursday and concludes with the Evening Prayer (Vespers) of Easter. Thus the Triduum includes Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and reaches it high point at the Great Easter Vigil. The name "Maundy" comes from the Latin antiphon Mandatum Novum, i.e. "a new mandate." This new mandate from Jesus is taken from John 13:34: love one another as I have loved you.
Grace and peace,
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Today Christians celebrate Maundy Thursday, here's how the day is described on the website http://www.churchyear.net/holythursday.html