Maundy Thursday in Eastern Christianity Date in the current year: May 2, 2024

Maundy Thursday in Eastern Christianity Maundy Thursday, also known as Holy Thursday or Great and Holy Thursday, is a Christian feast celebrated on the Thursday before Easter. It commemorates Maundy (the ritual of foot washing) and Jesus Christ’s Last Supper with the Apostles.

The week before Easter, commonly known as Holy Week, is considered to be of special importance because it commemorates the key events in the short final period of Jesus’ life called the Passion of Christ. The Thursday of Holy Week, for example, commemorates the final meal Jesus shared with his Apostles before his crucifixion. According to the Gospels, during the Last Supper Jesus predicted his betrayal by Judas, and foretold that Apostle Peter would deny knowing him before the rooster crowed in the morning.

The holiday is named after a religious rite of foot washing observed by many Christian denominations. It is mentioned in the Bible, particularly in the episode where Jesus Christ washes his disciples’ feet. To commemorate this episode, many denominations observe the ritual washing of the feet on Maundy Thursday.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the rite is performed in cathedrals and monasteries by a bishop or an hegumen (abbot), respectively. The bishop washes the feet of twelve high-ranking priests, and the hegumen washes the feet of twelve members of the brotherhood. In the Oriental Orthodox churches, foot washing rites are performed by a bishop or a priest. Depending on the denomination, he may wash the feet of twelve selected men or of the entire congregation.

The date of Maundy Thursday in the Julian calendar, which is used by most Eastern churches, falls between April 1 and May 5 on the Gregorian calendar. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is the only day during Holy Week when the strict rules of the fast are relaxed to permit consumption of oil and wine. The liturgy of the day includes Vespers combined with the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great. Before the liturgy, the hangings and vestments in churches are bright, usually white. After the liturgy, they are changed to black to symbolize the beginning of the Passion of Christ.

In Eastern Orthodox countries, Maundy Thursday is often called Pure Thursday or Clean Thursday since many traditions of the day are associated with the cleansing of body and soul before Easter. In some Slavic countries, for example, there is a custom of waking up before sunrise and washing oneself. During the day, people clean their homes and do laundry to make sure their homes are in perfect order by Great Friday.

In some regions of Russia, there used to be a tradition of preparing ritual salt known as Thursday salt. Peasants mixed wet salt with rye bread, wrapped the mixture in a cloth, and put in the stove for several hours. After that, the salt was blessed in the church. Thursday salt was stored in the icon case for the entire year. People believed that it had healing and protective properties.

While Maundy Thursday is a public holiday in some Western countries, it’s generally a regular working day in Eastern Christian countries.

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