Why Do We Do That? – Maundy Thursday Service
© 2013 Faith Alive Christian Resources.
For many people, Maundy Thursday services, may seem to be a fairly recent innovation. We've always celebrated Easter together. And many churches and communities have gathered to remember Christ's death on Good Friday. But Maundy Thursday is something new to most of us.
Not so in the wider Christian community. The celebration of Maundy Thursday goes back at least to the fourth century, when pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem are known to have marked the Last Supper and other events of passion week with special services at holy sites. Maundy is referring to the "new commandment" of love recorded in John 14. Maundy is an English corruption, via French, of the Latin mandatum or "commandment").
Various traditions know the day by different names: Holy Thursday, Great Thursday, Green Thursday. In the Middle Ages Christians officially called the day the "Thursday of the Lord's Supper," and this ancient designation is still the most descriptive. The central focus of Maundy Thursday worship has always been the upper room, where Jesus on the night of his arrest, sat at the table with his disciples and instituted a solemn memorial of his new covenant through the broken bread and shared cup of his supper.
Maundy Thursday, therefore, ranks among the richest and most complex of the Christian celebrations. As the climax of the old Passover tradition, the Last Supper recalls the exodus and other past signs of God's covenant faithfulness. As a prelude to the Easter drama, the service not only anticipates Gethsemane and Golgotha but also looks beyond them in expectation to the empty tomb and the great heavenly banquet of the Lamb (cf. Matt. 26:29).
Whatever the specific means employed in celebrating the Maundy Thursday service, the watchword should be simplicity— a simplicity of celebration that respects, and so enhances, the intrinsic power and richness of the great event we are privileged to commemorate.