Why Are They Called “Maundy Thursday” and Good Friday?

Just last week, we entered the Lenten season with the Ash Wednesday beginning it. And a few weeks from now, we would be talking about the Holy Week, but before then, in the spirit of Lent, as we know, we are expected to join in the Stations Of The Cross.

There are lots of liturgical activities during the days of the Holy Week and theses days include the “Maundy Thursday” and  “Good” Friday.

Let us take a look at these two holy days.

Maundy Thursday

The word “Maundy” comes to us as a French word derived from the Latin word “Mandatum,” which means “commandment.” In the context of Holy Week, it refers to the New Commandment Jesus Christ gave to his disciples while washing their feet in the Upper Room during the Last Supper as He said to the disciples: “And now I give you a new Commandment: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have the love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my Disciples.” (John 13:34-35 Good News).

He commanded them to do the same for each other.

Maundy Thursday can also be called Holy Thursday. It is the Thursday before Easter. As a reminder of this commandment, the Roman Catholic Church holds feet washing ceremony on the Thursday of Holy Week.

Since the focus of Maundy Thursday is on the “Upper Room” and the “Last Supper”, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist is one of the most ancient Catholic practices. This event is celebrated at every Mass as part of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, but it is specifically commemorated on Holy Thursday. This Sacrament is celebrated as part of an evening meal with reference to the biblical Last Supper.

This also commemorates Christ’s institution of the Priesthood.

In addition, we will observe some variation of the ancient service of “Tenebrae”, the Latin word for candles. It is a service of candles accompanied by various readings of scripture and the gradual extinguishing of candles, which cast shadows of the Cross in different dimensions on the walls. Eventually, the worshippers are left for a minute or two in total darkness, signifying the coming death of Jesus. There is the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament by the people during that night, just as the disciples stayed with Christ during His agony on the Mount of Olives. Tenebrae is usually observed as an integrated part of some kind of worship service and accompanied by celebrating the Sacrament.

In recent years, including foot-washing as part of the evening’s observance of Maundy Thursday has become popular. Such services show how much importance God ascribes to “humility” of service (John’s Gospel, 13:1-20), and the need for cleansing with water (as the symbol of our baptism) in the Mandatum, and the Priest stripping and washing of the altar. In fact, cleansing gave this day of the Holy week the name “Maundy Thursday”.

There is such an abundance of symbolism in the solemn celebration of the events of Holy Thursday.


Good Friday

The celebration of Good Friday is ancient. This is dated back at least to the 4th century. According to the Bible, the son of God was flogged, ordered to carry the cross on which he would be crucified and then put to death. It is difficult to see what is “good” about it.

But why is it called a “good” day?

“Good” in this context refers to a day or season observed as Holy by the Church, hence the greeting “good tide” at Christmas or on Shrove Tuesday.

According to the Baltimore Catechism – standard United States Catholic school text from 1885 till 1960, Good Friday is “good” because Christ ” Showed his great love for men, and purchased for him every blessing”.

The Catholic Encyclopedia says that some sources see its origin in the term “God’s Friday” or “Gottes Freitag” Others maintain that it is from the German Gute Freitag. It also notes that the day was called “Long Friday by the Anglo-Saxons and is referred to as such in modern Danish.

In the Greek Liturgy, the Greeks Call it the “Holy and Great Friday”. It is the “Holy Friday in Romance Languages and means “Karfreitag” which means Sorrowful Friday in German. Thus;

The details of what happened on that original Friday (Good Friday) are somehow different amongst the four Gospels, but here is a brief summary.

Either very late on Maundy Thursday or in the early hours of Friday, after the Last Supper, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to meditate. When he was there, one of his disciples betrayed him by leading the soldiers to him and portraying him as a threat to both the Jewish and Roman authorities. He was arrested and immediately taken before the Sanhedrin (Jewish supreme court), where he was found guilty. From there he was taken to stand before Pilate (Roman manager of Judea, southern division of Palestine), thereafter taken to face Herod (Roman king of Judea), and then back to Pilate again. He was condemned to death. He was stripped of all human dignity: scourged, crowned with thorns, spat upon, made to carry a cross through the streets, actually nailed to the cross, and finally having to suffer the slow and painful death of crucifixion from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. After he died, he was taken from the cross and buried in a tomb. How is it possible to characterize the horrific events of that day as “good”?

Whichever way all these translations mean one thing: Christ’s great love for men, and His purchase of blessings for Mankind.

That “Sorrowful” Friday has been called “Good” Friday because it led to the Resurrection of Jesus and his victory over death and sin and the celebration of Easter which is the very pinnacle of Christian celebrations. Christians agree that it took the death and burial of Jesus on that Friday to make the victory of the Resurrection possible.

What a “Good” and Remarkable Day for us!

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