What is “Maundy Thursday?”

What is “Maundy Thursday?”

Why do we celebrate this day during Holy Week?

Maundy Thursday gets its name from the Latin word, “mandatum,” which is the root word of the English words, “mandate” and “command.” Jesus’ command on the night of his Last Supper with his disciples was:

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” – John 13:34

The focus of Maundy Thursday is the meal Jesus hosted for his disciples to celebrate the Jewish Passover. Jesus came to Jerusalem, as did hundreds of Jewish pilgrims, to celebrate the Passover feast God commanded the Israelites to observe after they were freed from slavery in Egypt. The early Christians recreated this significant event of Jesus’ final week. For Christians, it is also a celebration of freedom from slavery – humankind’s slavery to sin. Originally called the “Eucharist,” from the Greek word for “thanksgiving,” it is also referred to today as “Holy Communion” or the “Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.” The first recorded accounts of this practice of the early Church is from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth:

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” – 1 Cor.11:26.

A more complete description of this ritual is found in the Didache, a book of worship from the late 1st or 2nd century. drawn together by the Spirit around Christ’s table, empowered by this sacrament to make all our living a sacrament. That’s what the indwelling of the Spirit does–makes all our life a sacrament, binding us to God like a tether, and working through us to reveal and share the love of God in this world.

At Westminster, we do not “fence the Table.” This is not a Presbyterian table it is the Lord’s Table. Jesus did not turn anyone from anyone who wanted to share a meal with him. Even on the night of his Last Supper with his disciples, he shared the bread and wine with Judas Iscariot, who he knew would betray him, and Peter, who he knew would deny him three times, and the rest who all fled when he was hanging on the cross. Taking part in the Eucharist is not a reward for, or a sign of faith, it is open to all who want to know Christ and to be touched by the wonder of forgiveness.

“Because of Christ’s prevenient and unconditional invitation, the fellowship of the table cannot be restricted to people who are ‘faithful to the church’, or to the ‘inner circle’ of the community. For it is not the feast of the particularly righteous, of the people who think that they are particularly devout; it is the feast of the weary and heavy-laden, who have heard the call to refreshment.”
― Jürgen Moltmann, The Church in the Power of the Spirit: A Contribution to Messianic Ecclesiology.

Cleopas and a friend, followers of Jesus, left Jerusalem discouraged that the movement he had started had ended with his death. On the road to Emmaus the risen Christ met them and journeyed with them, but they did not recognize him. When Jesus walked ahead to leave them, the two travelers begged him to stay and eat with them. Then…

“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him” – Luke 24:30-31a

On Thursday, April 13 at 7:00 will join together in the Westminster sanctuary to worship and to share the ritual of sharing bread broken and wine poured out in remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice for our redemption. Come and join us in worship and around the Table. All are welcome!

© Rev. Denise Clark-Jones, 2017, All Rights Reserved
Westminster Presbyterian Church – Peoria, Illinois