Spy Wednesday, Judas, and us

Tomorrow begins the Triduum, but today is “Spy Wednesday,” when Judas set in motion the events that would lead to Christ’s passion.

I reflect on what that means for all of us in this week’s column, “All Things New”:

If you want to consider this merely a curious date that stands outside the proper of the seasons, and doesn’t have any real significance, think again.

Spy Wednesday throws a spotlight, however briefly, on Judas, the one whose very name to this day is synonymous with betrayal. But the glare also falls on each of us. We might consider this an unofficial feast day for the human race: a day when each of us has to face the painful reality that we are sinners, and that we are guilty of an unspeakable crime.

If you want to be honest about it: we have all betrayed Christ.

We have all been Judas.

Meantime, Msgr. Charles Pope sees the act of Judas reflected in some of today’s clergy:

One way to reflect on this terrible sin is to reflect that Judas was among the first priests called by Jesus. We see in the call of the Apostles the establishment of the ministerial priesthood. Jesus called these men to lead his Church and minister in his name. But one of these priests went wrong, terribly wrong, and turned against the very one he should have proclaimed.

Among the other “first priests” we also see great weaknesses evident. Peter in weakness denied Jesus, though he repented later. All the others except John fled at the time of the passion. And so here we see the “sins of the clergy” made manifest. Christ did not call perfect men. He promised to protect his Church from officially teaching error but this does not mean that there is no sin in the Church and among those who are called to lead. The story of Judas shows that even among those who were called, one went terribly wrong.

Check out the rest. And you can read more on Judas Iscariot in the Catholic Encyclopedia, along with background on Holy Week. Wikipedia also has information about Spy Wednesday, with details on how various cultures observe it.

Image: Judas Goes to the High Priests by James Tissot


  1. brother jeff says:

    Judas was also the best educated of the original apostles I believe. An irony to ponder.

  2. I love all these things I learn on your blog!

  3. Deacon Bill says:

    Brother Jeff,

    How do you come to the conclusion that Judas was “the best educated of the original apostles”? And, even if he was, what is your point? Education and wisdom don’t have to walk hand in hand.

    God bless,

    Deacon Bill

  4. Deacon Bill says:

    Well, Greg, you got me with this one.

    Never have I ever heard of “Spy Wednesday” before. And, given my former profession, you would think I would have. (By the way, at one time, we had more than 35 deacons/deacon candidates serving at the National Security Agency.)

    God bless,


  5. It would be interesting to find out the origin of the term. I bet it’s Irish!

  6. HMS – I am Irish – lived there until I was 30 – I have always known this day to be ‘Spy Wednesday’! Can’t say for sure if it is an Irish born phrase though.

  7. Patrick Finley says:

    It is held traditionally that Judas was very educated, I believe I have seen levite applied to him before.

  8. brother jeff says:

    He is portrayed in Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth as a scholar with knowledge of many languages. He presents himself to Jesus as a “scholar.” There seems to be no biblical basis for this which I know of, but I think that is what I was recalling. However, I also don’t think Zeffirelli would have added this extra-textual material without someone advising him to do so.

    The point being merely what you say, that great learning does not always equate with great wisdom.

  9. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    There’s an excellent overview of Judas — what we know about him and what we don’t — at this link.

  10. Spy Wednesday is old English and common also in Ireland. Thursday’s name get more complicated: Maundy (for Anglicans and some British Catholics), from the “mandatum,” the new commandment to love one another, although the act of footwashing itself is also referred to as the mandatum, and I know more than one young Anglican who has wondered why it’s called Monday Thursday); Holy (for English-speaking and, in their own translations, Romance-language Catholics; Green (in German, from the old Germanic for weeping, though now in back formation everybody eats new spring green vegetables). Of course, the prize-winner is the Sunday after Easter, which besides being newishly recognized as Divine Mercy Sunday is Low (because it follows the high point of the year–and not because the post-Easter-duty drop in attendance is so visible!), Balaam’s Ass (from the OT reading once prescribed), and of course Quasimodo (from the entrance antiphon that begins “Quasi modo geniti infantes [in the manner of newborn infants]“; it was on this Sunday that Victor Hugo’s misshapen foundling was left at Notre Dame, and for which he was named). Whatever we call them, may these days be blessed for all!

  11. Reminds me of this wonderful quote from St John Eudes:

    “The most evident mark of God’s anger and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world are manifested when He permits His people to fall into the hands of clergy who are priests more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than the charity and affection of devoted shepherds. Instead of nourishing those committed to their care, they rend and devour them brutally. Instead of leading their people to God, they drag Christian souls into hell in their train. Instead of being the salt of the earth and the light of the world, they are its innocuous poison and its murky darkness….

    “When God permits such things, it is a very positive proof that He is thoroughly angry with His people, and is visiting His most dreadful anger upon them. That is why He cries unceasingly to Christians, ‘Return, O ye revolting children…and I will give you pastors according to my own heart’ (Jer. 3, 14-15) Thus, irregularities in the lives of priests constitute a scourge upon the people in consequence of sin.”

    -St John Eudes

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