Wednesday, 20 April 2011


“And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: This is my body. And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: And they all drank of it. And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.” - New Testament; Mark 22-24

Today is Holy Thursday for Christians and is also called Maundy Thursday. The word Maundymandatum comes from the Latin , which means “commandment”. At the Last Supper, which traditionally is commemorated as occurring on this day, Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). Prior to breaking the bread with the disciples, Jesus washed their feet. Maundy Thursday worship services include Holy Communion in commemoration of the Last Supper. Following Christ’s example on this day, kings, bishops and other figures of great authority, humble themselves and wash the feet of as many paupers as they had years of age. This is a tradition that is still carried out in some churches.

The Last Supper was a Jewish Pesach Seder meal and Jesus gave a new meaning to two of the special foods used in the celebration: Bread and wine. He told his disciples to eat and drink them as his body and blood. Jesus was referring to his crucifixion the next day when his body would be broken and his blood spilled. Today, most Christians celebrate this with a service in church called Holy Communion. Through receiving the bread and wine they commune with Jesus. This union links them with God and their fellow Christians both now and in the past.

Most Protestant Christians see the bread and wine of Holy Communion as important symbolic reminders of Jesus, whereas Roman Catholic Christians talk about the bread and wine becoming his body and blood. In Roman Catholic churches the bread and wine are called the “Blessed Sacrament” and kept in a Tabernacle with a light burning in front of it. Some churches celebrate Holy Communion every day, some every Sunday, and others once a month or less often. Other Christian groups such as the Salvation Army and the Quakers do not have the ceremony at all.

The Last Supper is also the setting of one of the basest betrayals. Judas’ betrayal of his teacher, friend and mentor, Jesus:

“Jesus looked at each of his disciples. His face was full of sorrow. ‘One of you sitting here will betray me.’ And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, ‘Lord, is it I?’ Jesus answered, ‘The one to whom I shall give this bread.’ Then Jesus took a piece of bread from the loaf, dipped it in the dish of wine and handed it to Judas Iscariot. ‘Do whatever you have to do, but do it quickly.’ Jesus said. With a start, Judas got up from the table, left the room, and walked out into the night.”

I think that this is one of the most poignant scenes in the Passion and is of a deeply symbolic meaning and intent…

In Greek Orthodox tradition, Holy Thursday is full of traditions and in church the Holy Liturgy commemorates the Last Supper, marks the betrayal of Judas and acts out in moving chants the capture of Jesus and His Passion. The chants, which are centuries old are some of the most moving and awe-inspiring in the church tradition. Here is Petros Gaïtanos singling one these chants, “I Zoé en Táfo” (“Life enclosed in the grave”)

In the morning of Holy Thursday households were busily preparing for Easter, baking Easter cookies, tsoureki (Easter sweet bread) and quite importantly dying eggs red. For Greeks, Easter without eggs dyed red is not Easter. For this reason, it is often called “Red Thursday”. In different parts of Greece there are different and quite elaborate traditions relating to the dying of eggs. For example the number of eggs dyed is strictly controlled, in other parts the vessel in which they are dyed must brand new, the dye must not be taken out of the house or it must not be poured down the sink. The way in which the eggs are decorated also varies.

The Easter Egg is associated with beliefs and traditions that are thousands of years old. The egg was an important symbol in the mythologies of many early civilisations, including those of India and Egypt. It was commonly believed that the universe developed from a great egg and that the halves of its shell corresponded to Heaven and Earth. The egg was also connected with the springtime fertility rituals of many pre-Christian and Indo-European peoples, like the old Cretans, and both the Egyptians and the Persians made a practice of colouring eggs in the spring.

The Greeks custom of dying eggs red, signifies the blood of Christ that was shed in self-sacrifice. In recent years the colouring of the eggs has become more adventurous and their decoration more elaborate. The dyed, hard-boiled eggs are distributed on Easter Sunday and people rap their eggs against their friends’ eggs. The object of the custom is to crack as many of your opponents’ eggs as possible with your single (very tough!) egg. The owner of the last uncracked egg is considered lucky.


  1. Helo:
    Such a very colourful header picture for this Maundy Thursday. Here in Hungary, as in Greece, the custom is to paint eggs which, hard boiled, are then eaten with ham and horseradish on Easter Sunday. In reality the dye seeps through the shell and the cracked egg is marbled with the most lurid colours.

  2. The eggs are beautiful! Such a lot of tradition and history around these...
    Another very beautiful chant.