maundy thursday

'What's Up with All the Eggs?' and Other Classic Easter Questions

Photo via Olga Pink / Shutterstock / RNS

Decorated Easter eggs. Photo via Olga Pink / Shutterstock / RNS

This is Holy Week, the most sacred time of year for Christians. It is the time they mark the betrayal, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus, and a week that culminates in Easter Sunday, the day Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead. So what do colored eggs have to do with anything? Let us Egg-‘Splain …

Q: Is Holy Week really a whole week? I only know about Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

A: Holy Week is the entire week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. Not a whole lot happens on Monday and Tuesday, but some Christians mark the crucifixion on Wednesday, and some celebrate Maundy Thursday, the day of the Last Supper, Jesus’ final Passover meal with his disciples. It is sometimes celebrated with a foot-washing ceremony, a tradition beloved by Pope Francis, and a “Pascha” or “Paschal” meal, derived from the Jewish Passover Jesus would have known. Then comes Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. Fun fact: Not all American Christians greet each other with “Happy Easter.” To many evangelicals, the day is “Resurrection Sunday,” in part because they believe the word “Easter” has pagan roots.

Q: What is so “good” about Good Friday, the day Jesus was horribly tortured to death?


Vatican Defends Pope Francis’ Washing of Women’s Feet

Pope Francis waves during his inauguration Mass at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. Photo courtesy RNS.

The Vatican on Friday dismissed criticism of Pope Francis’ decision to wash the feet of two women during a Maundy Thursday Mass at a Rome youth prison.

The move has come under fire from Catholic traditionalists who say that the rite is a re-enactment of Jesus washing the feet of the 12 apostles before his death, and thus should be limited only to men.

Traditionally, popes have washed the feet of 12 priests during a solemn Mass in Rome’s St. John Lateran Basilica.

On Maundy Thursday, Pope Washes Feet at Youth Prison

RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini

Pope Francis waves from the pope-mobile during his inauguration Mass. RNS photo by Andrea Sabbadini

Pope Francis on Thursday washed the feet of 12 young inmates, including two girls and two Muslims, during a Maundy Thursday Mass at a youth detention center in Rome.

The Argentine pontiff, who has shown an eagerness to break with tradition in the two weeks since his election to the papacy on March 13, chose to celebrate the rite in the Casal del Marmo prison in northwest Rome, rather than in the traditional venue of the St. John Lateran Basilica.

Francis has repeatedly stated his desire to bring the papacy and the church closer to the poor and the marginalized.

The Holy Week Journey

Crucifixion image,  Matt Gibson/

Crucifixion image, Matt Gibson/

“Liturgical celebration is a re-entrance of the Church into the event, and this means not merely its ‘idea,’ but its living and concrete reality.”

—Fr. Alexander Schmemann

You and I bring our life experiences with us when we gather with other Christ followers for worship. Everything that has happened to us on our pilgrimage in this world accompanies us, in fact, wherever we go.

Our past is part of what makes us unique persons. What we have endured and felt and accomplished informs our conversations and often helps determines our actions in the present moment. This is what it means to be human.

Take Up Your Towel and Follow Jesus

Image by Jorg Hackemann /Shutterstock

Image by Jorg Hackemann /Shutterstock

Someone beloved to me is suffering from a horrific disease right now. If I could fight this disease with a sword all my pacifist tendencies would run screaming for the hills and I would take up that sword and I would fight. Just the thought raises a rage up within me that is passionately intense and I long for such a sword.  

I can’t help but think that Jesus must have felt some of this, human as he was. Because of who he was and what he did the poor and the outcast and the sick were drawn to him and so he saw suffering every day. He healed and he taught and he called for others to follow him, yet the suffering still was all around. Some part of his humanity must have wanted to take up a sword and fight it. Yet he knew that violence was not the answer.

There was another way.

So instead of a sword, he took up... a towel and filled a basin with water.

Maundy Thursday: The Last Supper and Gethsemane

 By jorisvo/Shutterstock.

Medieval fresco depicting Washing of feet at Last Supper in Gelati Church near Kutaisi, Georgia. By jorisvo/Shutterstock.

As we walk with Jesus ever closer to Good Friday, we recognize today as Maundy Thursday, commemorating the day that Jesus celebrated his last Passover meal the Last Supper with his disciples and washed their feet. Later that night, he would go with them to the Garden of Gethsemane, to wrestled with his humanity and the mission God the Father had called him to to suffer and die on the cross at Golgatha the next day. Jesus asks his disciples to stay awake with him, to keep him company and join him in prayer. But they fall asleep, leaving Jesus alone in his dark night of the soul.

This is my body ... broken for you.

We've compiled a playlist of songs inspired by or that speak in some way to the Holy Week journey that brings us to Maundy Thursday and the great mandate from which the day takes its name: "If I, the Master and Teacher, have washed your feet, you must now wash each other's feet."


In the Name of Love

Martin Luther King, Jr. statue in Washington, D.C. Steve Heap/

Martin Luther King, Jr. statue in Washington, D.C. Steve Heap/

When my grandmother died when I was 15, I wanted the world to stop. I remember looking at traffic on the road near my home and just wanting everyone to be still — to stop and ponder what we all had lost in losing my grandmother and her love.

That adolescent desire is exponentially greater this week juxtaposed with the 44th anniversary of the martyrdom of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the continuing lack of criminal charges against the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Florida last month.

So I grieve — and I’m not sure what to do with the grief.