Good Friday and Easter Monday are common holidays in Canada, no matter a person’s faith.
But what about Maundy Thursday?
Also known as Holy Thursday and Thursday of Mysteries, there’s no “holiday” for this ancient Christian covenant which commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ with his Twelve Apostles.
But Maundy, an English word derived from the Latin mandatum which means “commandment” – remains one of the most deeply spiritual observations in Christian faith – though the tradition has largely been lost over time.
Not at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church in Trail, however, where Reverend Neil Elliot has kept the pre-Easter ritual alive for many years.
St. Andrew’s Agape Feast (pronounced ah-GAH-peh) and Maundy Thursday remain the most salient event for much of the parish.
“This is part of the tradition that many have lost, because for most of us, it was something our parents or grandparents would have grown up,” Rev. Elliot said. “They would have known what Maundy Thursday is, so it’s like we’ve kind of lost something of our roots.”
The term Agape, or Love feast, was used for certain religious meals among early Christians. In modern times, an Agape Feast refers to a Christian ritual meal eaten with others, as a sign of mutual love and fellowship.
“What we are doing is remembering the last meal that Jesus had with his disciples – the last supper – it’s like a mixture of Christian and Jewish traditions, so it’s acknowledging our spiritual roots to the Jewish faith, ” Rev. Elliot explained. “The last supper was a Passover meal, so the church provides a very simple meal of essentially bread and cheese, and parsley dipped in salt water. It’s kind of like communion we have every Sunday, but there’s a lot more extra bits that we have as well.”
It’s a very sombre and solemn observation, he added.
“But it’s deeply moving for many of us, including myself, and it’s one of our favourite services of the year because it kind of gets you right here (motioning to his heart).”
That’s the ceremonial part of the day, but where does “Maundy” fit in?
The reverend is originally from England, so his Maundy Thursday recollections date back to childhood.
“The queen gives out money to those who are in need, often people who are in almshouses (charitable housing) in England and haven’t got a lot of money,” he explained. “Going back to King Henry VIII, probably further, it’s always been part of the sovereign’s responsibility to give out Maundy money on this day.”
The principal symbol of Christianity is a cross, which comes from Easter observations.