Holy Thursday, also commonly referred to as Maundy Thursday, is a Christian holy day that takes place on the Thursday before Easter. It celebrates Jesus’s Last Supper with his apostles, which Christians remember when they take communion, as well as the washing of his disciples' feet.
Holy Thursday is the fifth day of Holy Week and usually falls on or between March 19 and April 22, depending on the calendars. It marks the beginning of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
What Happened on Holy Thursday?
Before his capture and death, Jesus shared one Last Supper with his apostles, on the day of the Passover Seder, thus it is likely that it happened towards the end of the week.
During the Last Supper, Jesus shared bread and wine with his apostles, symbolizing his body and blood. This would become the basis for the institution of the Eucharist, one of the most ancient practices in the Catholic church.
In an act of service and humility, Jesus also washed the feet of his apostles and gave them a new commandment to “love one another as I have loved you”.
The meaning of Maundy Thursday
Maundy comes from the Latin “mandatum” which means “commandment”. Holy Thursday is then also known as Maundy Thursday because it is associated with the washing of feet when Jesus gave his new commandment.
Holy Thursday Service
During Holy Thursday two important masses take place.
The first one happens in the morning, and it is the one where all the priests and bishops get together at their church, to celebrate and honor their priesthood, as well as the first bishop and priests of the Christian church - Jesus and his apostles.
During this mass, they bless the oil of the chrism and the bishops wash the feet of twelve priests.
The other mass takes place at night - because the Last Supper happened at sundown - and it is when the Holy Thursday liturgy is given. It marks the end of Lent and the start of the sacred Triduum, the three holiest days of Christianity.
During prayer, people are encouraged to reflect on the importance of humility and service and perform cleansing with holy water. During the Eucharist, the mass focuses on Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of his body.
Holy Thursday is not a day of obligation, but as one of the most sacred days in Christianity, people are encouraged to attend the service. Holy Thursday mass usually lasts between one and a half hours to two hours. After the Holy Thursday service, there are no masses until Easter.
Maundy Thursday Traditions
After mass, some churches will host a supper for their congregation, like Jesus shared supper with his disciples. People are also encouraged to donate money to charities.
Because it falls on a Thursday and it marks the end of Lent, it is allowed to eat meat on Holy Thursday, and many people eat roast lamb for their Holy Thursday suppers.
Click here to learn more about Holy Week and the other special days that lead up to Easter.