Thursday, 1 April 2010

Maundy Thursday

Today is Maundy Thursday, one of the holiest days in the Church calendar.   Today is remembered the Last Supper and the first Eucharist, the night before the Crucifixion.   It marks the beginning of the end of Lent, the day before Good Friday and the start of the Easter weekend.

Maundy Thursday is the name used in England for what is sometimes called Holy Thursday, particularly by the Catholic Church.   Today the Queen will give the Royal Maundy to deserving old people, one man and one woman for each year of the sovereign's age, a custom dating back to King Edward I in the 13th century, and possibly even earlier.   The coins are specially minted and distributed in red and white purses.   Until the death of King James II the monarch would also wash the feet of the selected poor, echoing Christ's actions with the Apostles on the night before His death.   The service takes place in a different church each year in England and Wales:  today it will be in Derby Cathedral.

The word "Maundy" probably derives from the Latin mandatum, from the verb "to give".   The term is only used in England (not Ireland or Scotland) and is one of our oldest and most faithfully observed rituals.

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