History of Maundy Thursday: a Shere or Green Thursday?

Alternatives Meanings of Maundy

Later tradition, however, suggests the term comes either from the Saxon word mand, which afterward became maund — a name for a basket, and subsequently for any gift or offering contained in the basket — or from the French word maund, from Old French mendier, which in turn comes from Latin mendicare, meaning “to beg.” It’s the same root from which we get “mendicant order” or those that rely on the giving of alms.

Roman Catholic Celebration of Maundy Thursday

Protestant Practices of Maundy Thursday

Protestant churches that do observe Maundy Thursday may offer a dramatic re-enactment of the Last Supper or another special Communion service. Foot-washing services and adapted Passover Seders are also fairly popular, especially in Anglican, Lutheran, and other liturgical Protestant churches. Not surprisingly, Protestants generally stick close to Biblical texts when constructing a special service. Catholic and Orthodox traditions add a few other elements to the observance.

Medieval Maundy Thursday Traditions

During medieval times, Maundy Thursday was sometimes called Shere Thursday, where shere means “pure” or “guilt-free.” (“Shere” also had something to do with shearing, as it was customary for medieval men to cut their hair and beards on this day.) Medieval Christians believed they could achieve purity by performing penance throughout Lent.

Europe and Maundy Thursday

A few European countries have added cultural observances to the list of church traditions. In England, the monarch distributes small purses of Maundy Money to elderly residents of the town selected for each year’s service. The practice dates back to 1210 when King John of England gave garments, knives, food, and other gifts to poor men on Maundy Thursday in accordance with Christ’s mandate to love others.

Writer and technologist. Author of fascinating articles about history, tech trends, and pop culture. billpetro.com @billpetro

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