Thursday, April 2, 2015

Maundy Thursday-what's in a name?

Today marks the foot washing of the disciples
Painting by Hanna Varghese, Last Supper
by Jesus as a symbolic act of humble service. It was also on this night that Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper. The sacrament of the altar/the Eucharist/Holy Communion-whatever this meal is called by the various traditions and denominations-I believe was originally intended as a sign of unity among the followers of Jesus. Yet, to this very day, it remains a sign of the opposite, a sign of division. Moreover, the arrogance, acrimony, and know-it-all attitudes among far too many theologians and clergy is a scandal, and I believe, likely the cause of much grief for Jesus himself. 
   Where does the word Maundy come from and what does it mean? Well, down through the centuries there have been at least three interpretations. 
   First, there is the Latin word mandatum, which means "command," and is associated with the words of Jesus in John 13, when he gives his disciples a new commandment to love one another. Others associate it with the synoptic gospels and Paul's account of the Lord's Supper when Jesus says, "do this." 
   Second, there is the Latin word mundo, which means "wash," and again is associated with John 13, where Jesus washes his disciples feet.
   Third, there is the word maund, which means "basket," and on Maundy Thursday the poor were given  food baskets. The poor were also given specially minted coins called maund money. 

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