The hymn of Judas is sung in Greek in the Matins of the Maundy Thursday; according to Baumstark, this hymn may be dated to the sixth or seventh century. A manuscript from the John Rylands Library in Manchester contains a Prayer for the Basin “without sprinkling the lentils” (the interpretation of this phrase is difficult). According to the text, this prayer is taken from “The Book of Joseph,” presumably either the owner of the book from which it was copied or the author of some liturgical work.
This prayer seems to be an ancient prayer addressed to God the Father through the Son, because the prayers addressed directly to the Son appeared only in the sixth century and hence this prayer is older than those addressed directly to the Son. The words of this prayer are not in pure Sahidic dialect but most likely belong to a local tradition. The words “without sprinkling the lentils” assumes that there was a local tradition at a precise time to sprinkle the lentils.
Ibn Kabar in the 14th century gives this description in his encyclopedia, The Lamp of Darkness for the Explanation of the Service:
For the Matins a chapter from the Law of Moses is read and after that To You Is the Glory is sung. The sanctuary that is clothed by a black veil is opened. The priest says the Thanksgiving prayer and raises up incense. Psalm 50 is read and the priest offers incenses towards the congregation without the liturgical kiss of peace and he prays the litanies for the Offerings and for the Sacrifice, after which a chapter from the Acts of the Apostles is read with a special tune, and the prophecy of Isaiah is read in the tune called the Great Trisagion after the Praxis.
The Psalm is chanted in Idribi, which is the tune of burial and the gospel is read in sorrowful tunes. Prayers conclude usually with a sermon and the commentary followed by the Litanies and Kyrie Eleison.
[His description does not differ from the actual practice.]
The prayers of Terce, Sext, and None are performed, then the basin is filled with water. When the priests are assembled around it, they begin praying the Prayer of Thanksgiving followed by Psalm 50, after which readings from Genesis 18:1-23, Exodus 14:15, Joshua 1:3, Isaiah 4:1-4, Ezekial 36:25-28, Ezekial 47:1-9 are read. [Note that the actual rite contains additional readings from Proverbs 9:1-11, Isaiah 55:1-13, and Exodus 36:25-28, in addition to a sermon. [Actually the readings are double those of the 14th century.]
The Pauline Epistle of I Timothy 4:9-16 and 5:1-10 is read. Then Agios is sung followed by the Prayer for the Gospel. The gospel psalm begins with, “Take hyssop and sprinkle me, that I may be clean . . .” The gospel reading is from John 13:1-17. The gospel is sung with the annual tune and when the reader arrives at the words, “He tied the towel around Him.
Then he poured water into basin,” the priest ties a towel around himself and pours water in the basin in the shape of the cross thrice. And after the interpretation (the reading of the text in Arabic); the priest raises the cross and the congregation chants Kyrie Eleison ten times with the great tune.
The seven litanies and the sixteen supplications concerning the basin are then prayed:
- Who girded Himself with a towel.
- Who by His love for mankind.
- Who prepared for us the way of life.
- Christ our God.
- Who bears light like a garment.
- Misere nobis; Domine, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
- Lord our God the almighty.
- Who gathered water.
- Who put the waters in His hand and the sky in His palm.
- For the sources to become rivers.
- And also who truly gives.
- Irrigate the harvest and make their fruits plentiful.
- Give joy to the face of the Earth.
- Let the Land of Egypt rejoice.
- Rescue Your people.
- Give security to the king.
After each supplication the congregation recite “Lord have mercy.” The priest then concludes the supplication and the congregation chants Kyrie Eleison one hundred times.
The three long prayers are then said: the Prayer for Peace, for the Fathers, and for the congregations, followed by the Creed. The priest says: “The Lord be with you” and makes the sign the cross on the water. The priest begins with saying “Right and worthy” three times, followed by a prayer which begins with “Lord God our Saviour.” The deacon responds: “You seated stand up” and the priest continues in prayer. When the deacon says: “Look towards the East,” And the congregation chants: “Agios agios.”
And the priest prays a prayer this is followed by, “Our Father” and the priest say the Absolution of the Son. The deacon says: “meta foboy” (which means “With the fear . . .”), and the priest blesses the water with the cross, saying, “One is the Holy Father . . .” followed by Psalm 150 according to the tradition.
The priest washes the feet and the hands of the people individually and greets them, saying, “Let God make you live.” The congregation sing the six stanza hymn which begins with “Our Saviour put down his clothes” in the annual Batos tune.
They are sung with the tune of the lobsh of the Theotokia of Thursday, which is, “The One from the Trinity,” and they are chanted with a melody of sadness because this day is the commemoration of the New Passover and the future joy, that resulted in the washing of our sins and the humiliation of the Lord of glory for the salvation of mankind.
The priest then prays the Prayer of Thanksgiving on the basin, that begins with, “Lord God the Almighty,” and when the deacon says, “Let us pray,” the priest concludes the prayer. The clergy enters to the sanctuary for the Prothesis of the qorban.
The washing of the feet ritual takes place before the offertory is done, to symbolise that our Lord first washed the feet of His disciples, and then He broke the bread, blessed it, and gave it to His disciples before consecrating the same with the chalice. This ritual is done in accordance with the holy words of the Gospels.
In fact, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke did not mention the foot washing but only the breaking of the bread and the giving out of the chalice. John mentioned the foot washing without mentioning either the bread nor the chalice but noted that the Lord, having washed their feet, returned back to [the] table. And hence, . . .
For the proemium [prelude] of the liturgy, they read the Pauline epistle with both the annual and sadness tunes. There are some people who read all the texts according to the annual tune and others according to the melody of sadness. Neither the Catholicon nor the Praxis are read.
It is mentioned that they were read formerly, however, a manuscript of the Passover, which contains a lesson of the Catholicon from the Epistle of Peter 3 (This assumes that in the 14th century this lesson was not observed) begins with, “What credit is there in fortitude when you have done wrong and are beaten for it,” and ends with, “But now you have turned towards the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”
I Peter 2:20-25. The Praxis is read during the matins, with the addition of, “He was counted with the twelve.” The majority of the churches read only the Pauline epistle.
The Trisagion is sung, followed by the psalm and gospel according to the annual tune. The gospel is from section 32 of Matthew. [According to the editor of the text of Ibn Kabar, this is an error and it should be corrected as the Gospel of John. The gospel chapters differ from what is actually in use.] They do not kiss the Gospel on this day because of the kiss of Judas. They do not say the Prayer of Peace which is the Aspasmos, and there is no mutual kiss between the people, and they do not say the Diptych of the Dead.
When the priest says, “Remember O Lord those who offered these oblations . . .” the congregation responds, “As it was.” The priest continues and says, “For this . . .” after which he concludes the liturgy with the Holy Eucharist. They do not read Psalm 150, and there is no dismissal, but rather, a lesson from the prophecy of Isaiah the prophet, followed by a psalm and a reading from the Gospel of John chanted in the melody of sadness.
During the first hour of the night, four lessons of the Paraclet from the Gospel of John are read. These readings are reserved for the priests according to their ranks. For the other hours of the night, they read four lessons from the holy gospel; one from each.
Maqrizi, a Muslim historian from the 15th century, compiled his “Chronicles” from various sources; some of them are Coptic and others are his own observations. The following is what he wrote concerning the Coptic Passover on Maundy Thursday:
Three days before the Passover [the Christians would celebrate] is Maundy Thursday and according to their customs, they would fill a basin and pray on it before washing the feet of all Christians. They pretend that the Christ did so with his disciples on this day in order to teach the humility and he got their oath to be humble towards each other.
The common people in Misr [Old Cairo] call this day the Thursday of Lentil, because Christians cook lentil and sometimes the Christians gave to each other and to the Muslims a variety of fish with lentil soup, but this custom has been abolished.