Secular life is often parsimonious with the liturgy during the week. Here in France, school holidays no longer correspond with Easter but fixed dates in the spring time according to the region. Necessity brought me to celebrate the Maundy Thursday Missa in Coena Domini in the morning rather than in the evening as Pius XII directed for the Roman rite.
Maundy Thursday in the Use of Sarum is much more sober than in the Roman rite [I include within this category the English Missal and Anglican Missal, even though they contain elements from the Prayer Book and thus remnants of Sarum]. We don’t sing the Gloria, we don’t play around with bells, and we wear the dull red vestments of Passiontide. I compromised and wore festal red. I came to the conclusion, following the suggestions of Fathers Finegan and Keller, that it was fitting to put the second and third hosts in the hanging pyx immediately after Communion rather than a “simple Easter Sepulcre” with the influence of the Roman rite in mind. The symbolism isn’t the same. The Easter Sepulcre is for Good Friday until the early morning of Easter Sunday. The hosts are those consecrated on Maundy Thursday – so the liturgical symbolism of the Triduum remains intact.
We use one rite or the other. I use Sarum, though I allow certain liberties like using prefaces from the Rouen Missal. Rouen has a preface for Maundy Thursday. The liturgical family is the same.
We don’t have the Agnus Dei either, any more than the Kiss of Peace. The Agnus Dei is reserved to the Bishop when he celebrates the Chrismal Mass. This Mass keeps the character of Passiontide and Holy Week.
Nevertheless, in popular piety, Maundy Thursday has become a “feast of the priesthood”, and I greet all those who have sent me e-mails and messages on Facebook. It was during the Last Supper when Christ instituted both the Priesthood and the Eucharist. This is a part of our priestly spirituality and what keeps us going.
I also greet my lay readers on this day in the spirit in which a priest washes the feet of his faithful or the Bishop washes the feet of his priests, or the Pope of Rome renders the same homage to delinquent teenagers in Rome in prison, who doubtless will be touched by the grace of conversion and amendment of life.
We are called and ordained to serve and learn humility – real and profound humility, which is invisible to everyone else…