Holy Thursday or “Maundy” Thursday

Mandatum NovumThe term “Maunday” or “Maundy” Thursday refers to Christ’s mandate (mandatum) in John 13:34 to His apostles in the service of the Church.  It is also called sometimes “Shere” Thursday, perhaps from “shere” indicating “tolerance” and “remedy”, in the sense of “wiggle room”.  This “shere” was, according to the OED the difference or error permissible in a measure of something, such as the deviation from the standard in minting a coin.


Sacratissimam, Deus, frequentantibus Cenam,
in qua Unigenitus tuus, morti se traditurus,
novum in saecula sacrificium
dilectionibus [2002MR dilectionisque] suae convivium Ecclesiae commendavit,
da nobis, quaesumus, ut ex tanto mysterio
plenitudinem caritatis hauriamus et vitae.

This prayer is a new composition for the Novus Ordo.  It might have a thin tendril reaching back into the ancient Veronese Sacramentary #96: Uere dignum: qui se ipsum tibi pro nobis offerens immolandum idem sacerdos et sacer agnus exhibuit.

In our Lewis & Short Dictionary we find that frequento is “to visit or resort to frequently, to frequent; to do or make use of frequently, to repeat” and thence more suitably for our purposes, “to celebrate or keep in great numbers, especially a festival”.   Haurio is “to tear up, pluck out, draw out, to take to one’s self, take; to swallow, devour, consume, exhaust”.

Agony in the GardenCommendo is “to commit to one for preservation, protection, etc., to intrust to one’s charge, commit to one’s care, commend to” and “implying a physical delivery, to deposit with, intrust to; constructed with aliquem or aliquid alicui, or absolutely”.  Moreover, it is “to commend or recommend, i. e. to procure favor for, to make agreeable, to set off with advantage, to grace”.  I was also intrigued by the possibilities in this definition: “Especially, of the dying, to commend children, parents, etc., to the care of others”.  You all know about the final commendation of a dying person.

The embedding of convivium within suae…Ecclesiae suggests a connection.  However, you could take that suae to be a dative, and thus put it with Ecclesiae, or you could take it as a genitive, and put it with dilectionis.  It depends on how you hear it.

At first glance there seems to be something wrong grammatically with this prayer.  It seems as if it is trying to be two different sentences: Deusdilectionibus suae convivium Ecclesiae commendavit.  Da nobis, quaesumus, ut ex tanto mysterio…. On the other hand, as we are often challenged to do when reading Latin, we are being asked to keep all sorts of concepts in the air until the final word of the sentence.  To put this into English, we have to rearrange it.  As a hint, you must see that Deus is the subject of the main verb da, and those to whom it is to be granted are found in frequentantibusFrequentantibus has as its object the Cenam. The whole phrase in qua… commendavit is embedded within that structure.

Frankly, this prayer is seriously overworked so self-consciously elegant that it is nearly impossible to sort out at a single hearing.  It becomes a tangled mass, just as when you are trying to twist up a forkful of spaghetti.  If you start the forkful with too many strands at the beginning, after a couple twists you have too much going on and the whole plate starts to move.

O God, we beg, grant to us attending the most holy Supper
in which Your Only-begotten, about to hand Himself over to death,
commended to Church a new sacrifice unto the ages
and a banquet of His love,

that we may from so great a mystery
drink deeply the fullness of charity and life.

The word haurio gives us the image of Christ’s bitter struggle on Thursday in the garden when faced with the chalice from which He would need to drink.  His bitter draught was our drink of new life.  This was the consequence of Christ’s sacrificial love, His perfect charity.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA, WDTPRS. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Henry Edwards says:

    1973 ICEL version:
    God our Father,
    We are gathered here to share in the supper
    which your only Son left to his Church to reveal his love.
    He gave it to us when he was about to die
    and commanded us to celebrate it as the new and eternal sacrifice.
    We pray that in this Eucharist
    we may find the fullness of love and life.

    Given the rule that caritatis is always to be rendered as “love” — as well as the tangle of the original Latin — a reasonably faithful paraphrase, isn’t it?

  2. martin says:

    The problem, Fr. Z. is that “dilectionibus” is a corrupt reading of “dilectionisque”.

    “sacrificium” and “convivium” are joint objects of “commendavit”.

    ” . . supper in which He commended to the Church a new and eternal sacrifice AND a feast of His love”. Part of the reference, of course, is to the “agape”.

    It looks as if the ICEL were working on the corrupt reading too, for their version only diverges from the original at this point.

    “dilectio” is, I think, only the second word in the whole series so far which is not in the OLD (the other was “testamentum” in the covenantal sense). The OLD serves readers of the Latin collects very nicely, thank you.

  3. Tonight at Mass the book they put in front of me was the 1975 edition. I noticed as I sang that Collect that the troubling word was different. However, in going back and checking the prayer again (which I was unable to do before because of the incredibly pressing day we have had), I found that I had copied the prayer incorrectly. I exchanged dilectionisque with dilectionibus.

    So, I have gone back and edited my entry.

  4. Robert Thornton says:

    It is certainly much easier to understand if one reads dilectionisque for dilectionibus. Nevertheless, it’s still too much of a tangle, at least for me, to translate both literally and gracefully.

Comments are closed.