Five things to know about Maundy Thursday

Christians today observe Maundy Thursday, which commemorates the Last Supper and Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. It is possibly one of the most important, complex, and profound days of celebration in the Catholic Church. Maundy Thursday celebrates the institution of the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Jesus Christ and the institution of the sacrament of the priesthood.

Here are five important things to know about Maundy Thursday:

What does Maundy mean?
The Thursday before Easter is known as either Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday. Maundy is derived from the Latin word for “command,” and refers to Jesus’ commandment to the disciples to “Love one another as I have loved you.”

What does it commemorate?
Maundy Thursday commemorates the Last Supper, which Christians consider the institution of Holy Eucharist, also known as the Lord’s supper or communion. It is described in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 22. At the Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus breaks bread, saying, “This is my body,” and pours wine, saying, “This is my blood.” He then asks the disciples to “Do this in remembrance of me.”

What holiday was Jesus observing?
The Last Supper is derived from Jesus’ Jewish heritage and his observance of a Jewish holiday. The Last Supper was a Passover Seder, the feast of unleavened bread. Jesus and the disciples are eating unleavened bread. Passover is the Jewish festival commemorating the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, when they left so quickly there was no time for the bread to rise.

Why foot-washing?
Maundy Thursday is also associated with foot-washing. Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, an act described in the Gospel of John, chapter 13, as Jesus teaching them to be servants. It’s the ultimate act of “servant leadership.” Jesus instructs his followers to love and to serve. Most Catholic churches will have a Mass tonight, with a Eucharistic celebration that includes the washing of feet..

Maundy Thursday has a dark side
Jesus foretells his death, saying he will eat no more until the kingdom of God is fulfilled. It also marks an act of betrayal. “One of you will betray me,” Jesus says. Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples, is pointed out by Jesus as the one who will betray him.

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