Vocabulary —Maundy Thursday

Frequently Asked Question:

Drawing showing a bowl of water and a towel and hands breaking bread above a chalice with the words, "Maundy Thursday."

What does Maundy mean? What is Maundy Thursday?

Maundy is always used nowadays, in the phrase “Maundy Thursday.”

The word Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum, which means command so Maundy Thursday is the day when we remember Jesus’ commands on the day before He died.

Maundy Thursday, then, identifies the Thursday before Easter Sunday as “The Day of the New Command.”

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. —John 13:34

Stripping of the Altar

(The ceremonial stripping of the altar is practiced on Maundy Thursday by many Christian churches including Mount Olive Lutheran Church. It is the last part of the Maundy Thursday service.)

Completely Naked

Jesus underwent great humiliation during His trial which included His clothing being stripped by the soldiers. (Matthew 27:28) It is customary to “strip the altar” which symbolizes the abandonment of Jesus by His disciples and the stripping of Jesus by the soldiers before His crucifixion. It represents the humiliation of Jesus and the consequences of sin as a preparation for the celebration of new life.

Fully Clothed Again

The altar is fully clothed again on Easter, proclaiming to us the things the women saw when they went to the tomb of Jesus.

Psalm 22

It is customary to read Psalm 22 as the altar is being stripped. 

Then the congregation leaves after the altar has been stripped.