Maundy Thursday and Goa’s Catholic community

As Goa’s Catholic community commemorates Holy Week, find out about the traditional practices associated with Maundy Thursday.
Maundy Thursday and Goa’s Catholic community
Washing of the feet on Maundy Thursday Picture Courtesy: Medium.com

Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday (locally known as ‘Nimanno Brestar’ in Konkani) is an important day for Goa’s Catholics. The evening Holy Thursday Liturgy marks the end of Lent and the beginning of the sacred 'Triduum' or the sacred three days of Holy Week (commemorating the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus), which culminate in the Easter Vigil.

Meaning and significance

The word 'Maundy' comes from the Latin word 'mandatum,' which means a command. 'Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos' means 'A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you'.

In Goa, during Holy Week, you will find churches and chapels conducting various liturgical services, retreats and processions as a means to instill faith, devotion and holiness in the minds of the faithful.

Maundy Thursday is an important day as it is on this day that Jesus established the institution of the Holy Eucharist, and the sacrament of the priesthood.

Practice and traditions

During the Maundy Thursday service in Goa, the priest washes the feet of a handful of people. Twelve persons are selected to have their feet washed, and this is a symbolic re-enactment of Jesus washing the feet of His apostles before the Last Supper.

In the past, only men would be chosen to have their feet washed, but Pope Francis brought in a couple of changes, and today you will find even women participating in this tradition. Several changes have now been introduced and parishioners also select individuals from other faiths for the washing of the feet.

The church altar is stripped of all decorations and kept bare. No mass is celebrated in the church until the Easter Vigil proclaims the Resurrection.

Special buns, garnished with a sugar/pastry dough cross, and called Hot Cross Buns, are given to the ones whose feet are washed. Therefore, you will find bakeries and cafés selling these specials buns on this day

The important sacraments established on this day are the institution of the Holy Eucharistic during the Last Supper, and institution of the priesthood. Holy Thursday is a celebration of the priesthood, and so, people greet priests on this day as well.

Goa draws hoards of people from across the globe for Christmas and New Year celebrations. However, this is also a place to experience Holy Week and Easter through the many churches and Catholic homes, where traditional practices are still observed with much fervor and devotion.

Want to experience this unique tradition, here is where you can go:-

- Basilica of Bom Jesus, Old Goa: The service begins at 5pm.

- Our Lady of Immaculate Conception: There will be services at 5.30pm and 7pm, followed by adoration, which will continue till midnight.

Washing of the feet on Maundy Thursday
Here’s what Goa’s Catholics do from Passion Sunday to the Easter Triduum

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