Saturday, April 11, 2009

Maundy Thursday

Someone asked me this week why "Maundy Thursday is called Maundy Thursday." I told them, "we don't really know." Here is a longer answer.

"Maundy Thursday" is the name for "Holy Thursday" in England. It is conjectured that the name "Maundy" comes from the Latin word mandatum meaning "commandment" or the Latin word mendicare meaning "beg". We cannot say for sure. The name traveled with the British Empire.

According to a common theory, the English word Maundy is derived through Middle English, and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you"), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John (13:34) by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet.

According to other authorities, the English name "Maundy Thursday" arose from "maundsor" baskets, in which on that day the king of England distributed alms to certain poor at Whitehall: "maund" is connected with the Latin mendicare, and French mendier, to beg. According to this theory, the term "Maundy" comes in from the English maund, which as a verb means to beg and as a noun refers to a small basket held out by maunders as they maunded. The name Maundy Thursday thus arose from a medieval custom whereby the English royalty handed out "maundy purses" of alms to the poor before attending services on this day.

Or, in short, we don't really know.

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