What’s Maundy Thursday?
Thursday at 9:22 pm
I remember that when I was a little kid, days like today — Maundy Thursday — were confusing. There must have been more than one year when I heard it pronounced with worse-than-usual mushy Midwestern vowels and asked, “Why would we call it Monday Thursday? It’s Thursday!”
That’s when my dad would remind me that it’s the day we believe that Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment — a mandate. Dad said he didn’t have any trouble with the word “maundy” because it was so close to two Scottish words he heard a lot as he grew up: maun, used like “must,” and dae, the Scots pronunciation of “do.”
The events of that last Thursday, the day before Jesus’ crucifixion, are powerful ones for me every year. At my home church tonight, during a service I once attended but tonight just watched, pastors told the Biblical story stage by stage — and after each reading, sometimes with a hymn, another bank of lights went out in the sanctuary. Even at home on the computer, I was soon in tears — as usual.
The effect is like a scary radio play going on with less and less to distract your eyes. That makes my mind and heart get wrapped up in the story of the events — and the readings went just beyond the crucifixion. It’s scary stuff for me, since I’ve been scared by “to be continued” all my life. (One year, a pastor saw me crying outside the church on Maundy Thursday and reminded me, “It’s not the end of the story.”)
But that means that sometimes, I can lose track of the mandate. So I decided what I maun dae yet tonight is to write about the word — and the Bible verses that describe it.
At the Last Supper — the Passover meal that was Jesus’ last with His disciples — John 13:33 tells that He said to the disciples: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
In one of the rarer books I inherited two years ago from my father, “The Four Gospels in Braid Scots,” the same verse is “I gie ye a new commaun, ‘Ye sal lo’e ane-anither, e’en as I hae lo’ed you, that ye soud lo’e ane-anither.”
(I often think that various languages, dialects and accents differ in their words by changing vowel sounds, but here in the broad Scots dialect, it does look like consonants can change as well.)
The Scots gospels can bring me some word-loving joy in the midst of the tense stories of Holy Week, such as the crowd “yammering” for Jesus to be crucified. What a wild word for that horrible time.
But in this time that’s quite strange itself, it’s enough for me tonight to remember that “Love one another” is a commandment — something I maun do.
The world could use it.