Maundy Thursday is the first of the Triduum sacrum services, and commemorates the foot washing and Last Supper of Christ with the Apostles, as described in the canonical gospels. The name comes from the Latin word mandatum, "commandment,” originating from from Christ’s words "I give you a new commandment" (John 13:34).
In general, the service proceeds similarly to a standard mass with some key exceptions, including foot washing (referred to as the Maundy), repose of the blessed sacrament, and stripping of all appointments, linens, and paraments from the altar and chancel.
Service notes: The Creed, Confession and Absolution, and Peace are all omitted from this service. Sufficient sacrament for the administration of Holy Communion at Good Friday services should be consecrated at this service, however all wine should be consumed prior to the conclusion of the service as it is not reserved.
The frontal color for Maundy Thursday is white on both the high and chapel altars. The preference is for the white/carmine set. Altar crosses are veiled in white and processional crosses are veiled in purple. Candles at the high altar are lit prior to the service as usual, however candles at the Altar of Repose are lit following the administration of communion.
The minister of ceremonies should ensure that all extraneous hymnals, prayer books, bibles, and leaflets and kneelers have been removed from the sanctuary and quire ahead of the start of the service to facilitate stripping the altar.
The Altar Guild should have ready a brush of palms, basin of water, and towels for cleansing the high altar after it is stripped.
Foot washing and Anointing of Hands
Two chairs, basins, towels, ewers of warm water, and chrism should be placed by the Altar Guild against the wooden divider of the first row of pews, easily accessible to be moved into the crossing at the appointed time.
Altar of Repose
The chapel altar is designated the Altar of Repose and will be decorated by the Altar Guild. The minister of ceremonies should check the altar to ensure that there is sufficient room around the steps and footpace for the servers to arrange themselves when the Blessed Sacrament is taken to the Altar of Repose. A corporal should be laid out on the Altar of Repose.
Clergy are attired in black cassock, alb, and white/carmine stole. The celebrant wears the white/carmine chasuble. The white cope is placed at or near the sedilia and humeral veil at the credence, ready to be retrieved for the Transport of the Blessed Sacrament.
The choir is attired in black cassock and surplice. All other servers are attired in black cassock and surplice. The lectors do not vest.
There are two thurifers assigned to this service, however the second thurifer is only included in the Transport of the Blessed Sacrament. Two thuribles should be prepared prior to the start of the service, however only one should be lit for the entering procession.
Incense will be offered during the entering procession, Gloria and Offertory, as well as during the Transport of the Blessed Sacrament.
The entering procession follows the standard form, moving from the West door to the high altar during the opening hymn. The second thurifer processes without thurible and with the other lay servers.
The celebrant or cantor intones the Gloria, after which bells are rung and the organist plays a fanfare before the choir continues with singing the Gloria. The altar is incensed during the Gloria. At the conclusion of the Gloria, the organ is dark until Easter Vigil. The service then proceeds as normal until after the homily.
Washing of Feet (The Maundy) and Anointing of Hands
At the conclusion of the sermon, the minister of ceremonies and acolytes move the the foot washing stations into the crossing facing the nave. If the celebrant is wearing a chasuble at this time, the minister of ceremonies assists her/him in removing it and placing it over the front pew divider. The people are invited forward for foot washing and/or anointing of their hands with oil.
Foot washing begins with the celebrant and deacon, and then proceeds to the altar party, the choir, and the congregation. Ushers will invite the congregation forward similar to the administration of Communion. Each person who has their feet washed will then in turn wash the feet of the next person until all those desiring to have their feet washed have been attended. If an individual does not wish to have their feet washed, they may proceed directly to the priest to have their hands anointed.
At the conclusion of the washing of feet, the minister of ceremonies assists the celebrant in donning the chasuble. Acolytes move the stations back from the crossing. The thurifers remove the basins and towels to the Sacristy.
Following the washing of feet, the service proceeds to the Prayers, but omits the Confession and Absolution and the Peace.
Offertory and Holy Communion
After the Offertory sentences, the acolytes proceed to the Altar of Repose and light the candles there. The Offertory anthem is sung and the Mass continues as is customary until the conclusion of Communion. The altar is incensed during the Offertory, prior to the Preface.
At the Agnus Dei, the text “...grant us thy peace” is not sung and is instead replaced with “...have mercy upon us.”
The thurifers should remain outside of the altar rail and receive communion first, then exit to the sacristy to light and/or stoke the thuribles for the Transport of the Blessed Sacrament.
At the conclusion of Communion, the deacon or celebrant arranges the ciborium on the corporal, covered by a pall. All remaining wine should be consumed as it is not reserved.
During the Communion hymn, prior to the Solemn Prayer Over the People, the minister of ceremonies assists the celebrant in changing out of the chasuble into the cope.
When Communion is ended and the gates are opened, the altar party assembles. The acolytes with torches, thurifers with lit thuribles, minister of ceremonies, deacon and subdeacon proceed to the pavement at the foot of the altar steps and arrange themselves as:
[ Altar ]
Acolyte 2 Thurifer 2 Subdeacon Deacon MC Thurifer 1 Acolyte 1
Rail ==================== ==================== Rail
The celebrant says the Solemn Prayer Over the People from the footpace facing the nave.
Transport of the Blessed Sacrament
Thurifer 2 (on the Gospel side of the altar) approaches the celebrant to have incense laid on, moving up to the deacon’s step and then back into place. Thurifer 1 approaches the celebrant to have incense laid on, moving up to the deacon’s step. Once incense is laid on, the thurifer hands the thurible to the celebrant, who then incenses the Blessed Sacrament with three double swings, and then hands the thurible back to thurifer 1, who moves back to the pavement.
The subdeacon and deacon approach the footpace to assist the celebrant with donning the humeral veil and picking up the ciborium. They back down to the pavement.
The celebrant turns to face the nave holding the Blessed Sacrament, and all genuflect in unison.
The crucifer moves into position to lead the procession (as with a normal retiring procession), the acolytes with torches meeting the crucifer outside of the altar rail. The procession forms as follows:
Subdeacon Celebrant Deacon
Thurifer 2 Thurifer 1
Minister of Ceremonies
Acolyte 2 Crucifer Acolyte 1
The choir follows the procession after the sacred ministers, leaving a sizable distance between the head of the choir and the sacred ministers.
The procession proceeds at a stately pace, heading down the center aisle to the West door, then turning left, going up the side aisle, turning right at the rear of the chapel, and then up the center aisle of the chapel to the Altar of Repose. The choir files into the chapel pews as they reach them.
Upon reaching the Altar of Repose, the altar party arranges themselves as such:
[ Chapel Altar ]
Thurifer 2 Subdeacon Celebrant Deacon MC Thurifer 1
Rail ==================== ==================== Rail
Crucifer [Chalicist] Acolyte 2 Acolyte 1 [Chalicist]
The celebrant alone proceeds to the altar and places the Blessed Sacrament on the corporal. After moving back into place on the pavement, all genuflect in unison.
Thurifer 2 passes the thurible to the celebrant, who incenses the Blessed Sacrament, and passes the thurible back to thurifer 2. All kneel while the choir sings Tantum ergo sacramentum.
At the conclusion of the hymn, the altar party all rise and bow profoundly to the Blessed Sacrament. With the crucifer starting, but without an orderly procession, the altar party exits the Altar of Repose through the organ console gate, across the quire (without reverencing) to the sacristy where preparations for stripping the altar will begin. The crucifer and acolytes take the cross and tapers to the sacristy with them and leave them there. The choir remains in the chapel.
Stripping the Altar
The sacred ministers remove all other vestments, remaining in cassocks for stripping the altar.
The sacred ministers, assisted by the Altar Guild and other servers, remove all appointments from the altar and sanctuary. Only the sacred ministers remove items from the altar and sanctuary. All other assistants receive items from the sacred ministers and carry them to the sacristy.
The sacred ministers enter, the subdeacon carrying towels, the deacon carrying water, and the celebrant carrying the brush of palms, approach the altar without reverencing. They cleanse and dry the altar and then depart.
There is no dismissal. Servers, congregants, and choir depart as the spirit moves them without orderly procession or planning.