Spy Wednesday

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Spy Wednesday

Black Wednesday, Crooked Wednesday

In Ireland the Wednesday before Easter is known as Spy Wednesday. The name comes from the Bible passage read in church on that day, which explains the role that Judas Iscariot played in bringing about Jesus'death. According to the calendar of the Roman Catholic Church, Spy Wednesday marks the last full day of Lent and Holy Week. The Triduum begins on the evening of the following day, Maundy Thursday, and continues through Easter Sunday.

Judas Iscariot was one of Jesus' twelve disciples. Although Judas was not a spy in the sense in which we use the word today, spies do perform the same kinds of treacherous acts that Judas did. In exchange for a sum of money Judas betrayed Jesus' whereabouts to the religious authorities who sought his death. Then Judas returned to Jesus' side, pretending continued admiration and faithfulness. In Germany people once called the day Crooked Wednesday, while Czech folk tradition dubbed the day Black Wednesday. These names, too, convey a sense of something having gone wrong. In past times Polish schoolboys dragged effigies of Judas through the street on this day (see Judas, Burning of).

The idea that Judas betrayed Jesus on a Wednesday gave this day a special place in the Christian calendar. Indeed, the early Christians fasted on Wednesdays throughout the year in remembrance of this sad event. Around the year 400 Western Christians, that is, Roman Catholics, abandoned the Wednesday fast in exchange for a Saturday fast, which is also no longer practiced. Orthodox and other Eastern Christians maintained the ancient tradition of the Wednesday fast, however. Even today, strictly observant Orthodox Christians continue to fast on Wednesdays in remembrance of Judas'act of treachery.

Further Reading

Blackburn, Bonnie, and Leofranc Holford-Strevens. The Oxford Companion to the Year. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1999. Metford, J. C. J. The Christian Year. London, England: Thames and Hudson, 1991. Monti, James. The Week of Salvation. Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor Publications, 1992. Niemann, Paul J. The Lent, Triduum, and Easter Answer Book. San Jose, CA: Resource Publications, 1998. Slim, Hugo. A Feast of Festivals. London, England: Marshall Pickering, 1996.

Spy Wednesday

Between March 19 and April 22; Wednesday before Easter
The Wednesday before Easter Sunday is the day on which the disciple Judas Iscariot made the deal to betray Jesus. In order to arrest Jesus without exciting the populace, Judas led the Jewish priests to the Garden of Gethsemane, near Jerusalem, where Jesus had gone at night to pray with the other 11 disciples after the Last Supper ( see Maundy Thursday). Judas identified Jesus by kissing him and addressing him as "Master." For this he was paid 30 pieces of silver, the price of a slave in the Old Testament.
The name "Spy Wednesday" is said to be of Irish origin, although the Bible never refers to Judas as a spy. His surname, Iscariot, is believed by some to be a corruption of the Latin sicarius, meaning "murderer" or "assassin."
DaysCustFaith-1957, p. 106
DictDays-1988, p. 113
EncyEaster-2002, p. 574
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