The Triduum- one continuous liturgy
The Easter Triduum comprises the three holiest days of the Church’s calendar that lead us from Lent to the joy of Easter, drawing us intimately into the Paschal Mystery: the saving impact of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Beginning with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the Triduum takes us through Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and the Easter Vigil, concluding with Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday.
The Mass of the Lord’s Supper features the Washing of the Feet highlighting Jesus’ servant leadership, which leads him (and us) into the Last Supper. The tabernacle door is open from the beginning of the liturgy as a stark reminder that there will be no consecration on Good Friday and what is consecrated this night must last the congregation (and the sick) until the Easter Vigil. The commemoration of the Last Supper brings into sharp focus the solemn reality that Jesus’ life will be offered up in sacrifice as does the removal of the Blessed Sacrament to the altar of repose and our invitation to keep vigil with Jesus.
Good Friday liturgies include the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer and the devotion of the Stations of the Cross; yet the key liturgy of Good Friday is the Passion of Our Lord, usually held at 3 pm, the hour in which Jesus was crucified. This solemn three-part liturgy features dramatic readings (that foreshadow and describe the suffering Jesus endured), the moving Adoration of the Cross and Holy Communion from the reserved sacrament.
Holy Saturday honours the day in which Christ lay in the tomb. As a society that isn’t very good at waiting for things, this time of waiting needs to be reclaimed. The Office of Readings and Morning Prayer from the Prayer of the Church offer us a way to do this liturgically in our worshipping communities. As is fitting for a time of waiting, Holy Communion can only be received as Viaticum (for those facing death).
In the darkness of Saturday evening, the Easter Vigil begins with the Blessing of the Fire, which lights the Paschal Candle that will light our way for the coming year. As we follow the Paschal candle into the darkened church, we soon hear the magnificent Exsultet, followed by the stories of salvation from the Hebrew Scriptures to the proclamation of Christ’s resurrection. If there are catechumens seeking full initiation, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults then breaks forth and the congregation renews their own Baptismal vows. We then feast in the Eucharist and, jublilant in the resurrection, we are dismissed with the cry “Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!”
Ms Sharon Boyd, MA
Professional Specialist-Liturgy Education
ACU Centre for Liturgy