Three days in a row at church? Maybe it sounded miserable when you were six, but this year you’re much older and wiser. More importantly, you have gotten to know the person of Jesus Christ. And there is no better or more fitting way to commemorate Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection than participating in the Easter Triduum.
What is the Easter Triduum?
The word “Triduum” can mean any three-day period of prayer that typically precedes a feast day. The Easter Triduum (or Paschal Triduum) is the three days of prayer that precede the celebration of Easter. These three days see the celebration of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, a Good Friday service that recalls the passion and death of Jesus Christ, and finally, the three days culminate in the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection at the Easter Vigil, after nightfall on Holy Saturday but before dawn on Easter Sunday.
Holy Thursday (that’s today!)
Tonight we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper (your parish probably has this mass tonight around 7pm). At this mass, we commemorate the Last Supper of Jesus (as, of course, we do at every mass—but in a special way tonight). We recall Jesus’ words to the twelve in Luke’s Gospel on the night he was handed over, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” We recall Christ’s washing of the apostles’ feet in the institution of the priesthood, and the institution of the Eucharist. The mass will end with the procession of the Blessed Sacrament out of the church to a place of repose, where the faithful are typically able and encouraged to stay and pray for a period of time. The altar in the church is then stripped and crosses are covered with a red or purple veil. This is a perfect way to prepare for Good Friday. Celebrate with Christ the Passover meal, and enter with him into the Garden to pray.
Good Friday is the day that we commemorate the passion and death of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is the one day out of the entire year that the Catholic Church does not celebrate the mass. Instead, there is a Good Friday service (usually takes place in the afternoon) that typically consists of the Liturgy of the Word, veneration of the Cross, and communion (the communion hosts received at this service were consecrated at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday). This is a solemn day on which Catholics are obliged to fast. Especially between the hours of 12 and 3pm, the faithful are called to meditate on the passion and death of Jesus Christ.
The Easter Vigil
The “mother of all holy vigils”, on this night, the Church keeps vigil for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is also at this mass that the Church welcomes its newest members through the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist). You will not find a more joy-filled or a more glorious celebration on this earth than the Easter Vigil. A lot more could be said, but words just won’t do it justice.
The goal of our worship, of our liturgy, as Catholics is communion with God. Over these next three days during which we commemorate the good news of our faith as Christians, what better way to be united with God than to walk the steps of Jesus along with the Church? To participate in the Mass of the Lord’s Supper this evening, to enter with Christ into the Garden tonight, to walk with him on the road to Calvary tomorrow, to wait in haste on Saturday and keeping vigil into the night, ultimately celebrating his resurrection from the dead and victory over sin.
O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!