From Medieval Saints- Yahoo Group
Maundy Thursday, which derives its English name from Mandatum, the first word of the Office of the washing of the feet, is known in the Western liturgies by the heading "In Coena Domini" (upon the Lord's supper). This marks the central rite of the day and the oldest of which we have explicit record. St. Augustine informs us that on that day Mass and Communion followed the evening meal or super, and that on this occasion Communion was not received fasting. The primitive conception of the festival survives to the present time in this respect at least, that the clergy do not offer Mass privately but are directed to Communicate together at the public Mass, like guests at one table. The Liturgy, as commemorating the institution of the Blessed Sacrament, is celebrated in white vestments with some measure of joyous solemnity. The "Gloria in excelsis" is sung, and during it there is a general ringing of bells, after which the bells are silent until the Gloria is heard upon Easter Eve (Holy Saturday).
It is probable that both the silence of the bells and the withdrawing of lights, which we remark in the Tenebræ service, are to be referred to the same source -- a desire of expressing outwardly the sense of the Church's bereavement during the time of Christ's Passion and Burial. The observance of silence during these three days dates at least from the eighth century, and in Anglo-Saxon times they were known as "the still days"; but the connection between the beginning of this silence and the ringing of the bells at the Gloria only meets us in the later Middle Ages. In the modern celebration of Maundy Thursday attention centres upon the reservation of a second Host, which is consecrated at the Mass, to be consumed in the service of the Presanctified next day. This is borne in solemn procession to an "altar of repose" adorned with flowers and lighted with a profusion of candles, the hymn "Pange lingua gloriosi corporis mysterium" being sung upon the way.
So far as regards the fact of the consecration of an additional Host to be reserved for the Mass of the Presanctified, this practice is very ancient, but the elaborate observances which now surround the altar of repose are of comparatively recent date. Something of the same honour used, in the later Middle Ages, to be shown to the "Easter Sepulchre"; but here the Blessed Sacrament was kept, most commonly, from the Friday to the Sunday, or at least to the Saturday evening, in imitation of the repose of Christ's sacred Body in the Tomb. For this purpose a third Host was usually consecrated on the Thursday. In the so-called "Gelasian Sacramentary", probably representing seventh-century usage, three separate Masses are provided for Maundy Thursday. One of these was associated with the Order of the reconciliation of penitents (see the article ASH WEDNESDAY), which for long ages remained a conspicuous feature of the day's ritual and is still retained in the Pontificale Romanum. The second Mass was that of the blessing of the Holy Oils, an important function still attached to this day in every cathedral church. Finally, Maundy Thursday has from an early period been distinguished by the service of the Maundy, or Washing of the Feet, in memory of the reparation of Christ for the Last Supper, as also by the stripping and washing of the altars (see MAUNDY THURSDAY).
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The Learning Experience of Holy Week
Holy Thursday - Catholic Online