What do Christians celebrate on Maundy Thursday?

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Maundy Thursday focuses on the message of Jesus’ Last Supper with his twelve disciples.

Maundy Thursday marks the beginning of the “holy three days.” The name Maundy Thursday probably goes back to the Middle High German word “Greinen” or “Grienen,” which means “to lament.” On this day, sinners who had repented, the “Greinenden,” was welcomed back into the community. However, some scholars also point out that since the 4th century, Holy Thursday was an ecclesiastical day of rejoicing, when those who had previously been excommunicated were again admitted to communion after repentance and forgiveness (i.e., were again “greening wood” on the trunk of the Church according to Luke 23:31).

The evening Mass on Holy Thursday commemorates Jesus’ Last Supper, where he instituted the priesthood and the Eucharist. Jesus washed his disciples’ feet before the meal as a sign of servant love. This custom, known since the Council of Toledo in 694, is repeated on Holy Thursday by priests or bishops in many churches today. As an expression of mourning, the organ and bell fall silent during the Mass and remain silent until the Easter Vigil. Another sign of sympathy for Christ’s suffering is the veiling of the cross and altar. And in many Christian communities, vigils are kept until Good Friday.

Vespers on Holy Thursday also marks the end of the Paschal Penitential Season. That something new begins with the end of the penitential season is also reflected in the Chrism Masses, celebrated annually on the morning of Holy Thursday. New oils are consecrated and used in ordinations, baptisms, confirmations, and anointings of the sick.

GOOD FRIDAY & HOLY SATURDAY

This custom goes back to biblical and ancient traditions. Already in ancient times, oil was not only used as food but also as medicine and for body care. The Greek name for the oils, chrism, refers, on the one hand, to Christ as the anointed one, and the Greek word for anointing oil is charisma. This double meaning is intended to emphasize that anointing with the oils is, according to the understanding of the Church, a sign of the encounter with Christ.

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