Some people call it Holy Thursday, others as Maundy Thursday. But what does the “Maundy” in “Maundy Thursday” mean? It’s certainly not a commonly-used word or something you’re likely to hear outside the context of Easter. What did this term mean, and where did it come from?
Etymologically, the consensus is that “Maundy” comes from the Latin word Mandatum (itself from the verb Mandare), which is translated “commandment.” (See Wikipedia’s entry on the derivation of the name ‘Maundy’ for additional opinions.)
In the context of Holy Week it refers to the commandment Jesus gave to his disciples while washing their feet, as recorded in John 13. Specifically, the commandment in John 13:34-35:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
As a reminder of this commandment, some churches hold foot washing ceremonies on the Thursday of Holy Week. If you’ve never been a part of a foot washing ceremony, it’s an incredibly humbling activity—one can imagine how difficult it would have been for the disciples to allow Jesus to humble himself in this way.
Re-posted from Bible Gateway Blog April 21, 2011