Friday, April 6, 2007


Ever wonder how some Solemnities got their names? Yeah, the Ascension, the Assumption, Ash Wednesday, All Saints, and Immaculate Conception are all self-explanatory.

Here in the States, many of us Catholics know Holy Thursday and Good Friday by those names. In my teen years, I had some friends who went to the local UCC church up the street from my house. It was from there that I had first heard the term "Maundy Thursday". Because the UCC folk were the first to expose that nomenclature to me, I had thought for many, many years that "Maundy Thursday" was a Protestant thing.

That was around 1981-82-ish. Let's fast forward to 1999, when I started work at Holy Name in Providence --- home of Rhode Island's only diocesan authorized Tridentine Latin Mass (there are two English Masses there as well each weekend). I landed up with two copies of the Liber Usualis --- one with French instructions and subtitles, and one with English instructions and subtitles (both succumbed to the infamous Pawtucket Mill Fire of 2003). In the English-subtitled Liber, sure enough... "Maundy Thursday". Still I had thought the name sounded kind of depressing (after all, it's during Holy Week). It turns out, "Maundy" actually comes from the Latin Mandatum (commandment, also where we get such words as "mandate", "mandatory"). Mandatum novum do vobis (I give you a new commandment). Red Sox cap tip to Argent, who cites Fisheaters.

Now, as for Good Friday. One would ask: What's so good about Good Friday? Jesus was just crucified, and died! Ah, true. But I think what makes it so "good" is the reason Jesus died. It was for OUR sins that he died, after all. Jesus was sinless. What else was "good"? Well, consider the obedience that Jesus showed along the entire journey, from his arrest right to his death. Red Sox cap tip to Domini Sumus, who also reminds us that the true translation from the Latin for this day is "Holy Friday". Such tongues based on Latin (French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian) translate it such --- from my memory of working with the French Canadians in Woonsocket, it was Vendredi Saint. Yup - Holy Friday. The Orthodox and Eastern Riters call it "Great Friday". But, they also celebrate it a week later. While we celebrate Easter this Sunday, those guys are in Passiontide.

UPDATE: In a return comment from Domini Sumus in her post, I just learned that the Eastern Rite/Orthodox folk are celebrating on the same days this year instead of a week late. That is RARE!

In the Peace of the Crucified Christ,

No comments: