The Paschal Triduum begins with the evening Mass of Holy Thursday and lasts through the evening of Easter Sunday.
Dating to the earliest days of the Church, the three-day liturgy is the summit of the Liturgical year for Catholics. Through the centuries, Catholics have developed many customs and rituals special to these days that really form one prolonged memorial and sacrifice in the life of the faithful.
Here are five amazing facts about the Triduum to get you ready for Easter.
Catholics in America tend to break up the Triduum into three “liturgies” – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.
But did you know that the Triduum is really only one long liturgy?
If you attend the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, you’ll notice that it starts normally “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” But there is no final blessing at the “end.”
That’s because the liturgy has not ended. The Eucharist is brought to the altar of repose and the church is left in silence until the Good Friday service, which has no opening Sign of the Cross and no final blessing.
Only at the close of the Vigil does the priest finally conclude the three-day-long “Mass” saying, “The Mass is ended, go in peace, alleluia, alleluia.”
How cool is that?
Suggestion: This year, attend all three elements of the Triduum at your parish.
At the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which opens the Holy Triduum, the Church recognizes the moment when Christ gave us not one, but two sacraments: the Holy Eucharist and the priesthood.
On the night before he died, Jesus Christ’s first concern was to remain with us even after he had returned to the Father. So he gave us both the holy priesthood to bless and consecrate the Eucharist, and the Eucharist itself – his body and blood, soul and divinity.
Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”(Luke 22:19 – 20)
Suggestion: Bring your pastor and priests gifts of bread and wine tonight to celebrate with them the gift of Holy Orders!
That’s right. For a Church that spends the entire year celebrating Sacraments, Good Friday is a major shift. Only two Sacraments are permitted as we mourn the death of the Lord: the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick (for those in danger of death).
There’s no Mass. No marriage vows. No baptisms (unless there is danger of death).
The whole Church enters into the spirit of the prophet Amos:
I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day.Amos 8:10
Suggestion: If you haven’t yet made your Lenten Confession, get to a Catholic Church ASAP!
Traditionally, Catholic churches silence all bells for the entirety of Good Friday and Holy Saturday before the Vigil.
Parishes often also empty all holy water fonts in preparation for the blessing of the holy water at the Easter Vigil.
Germany takes it a step further and prohibits horse-racing.
Suggestion: In addition to the required fast on Good Friday, fast from all music and social media to enter more deeply into the silence of the day.
We profess it every Sunday in the Nicene Creed: “He descended into Hell.” But on Holy Saturday the Church takes time to reflect on what that really means.
In the Christian tradition, the period between Christ’s death on the cross and the resurrection is often called “the harrowing of Hell.” While his mother, apostles, and followers mourned his death, Christ was making his triumphant descent into the halls of the dead to set them free. “Hell,” to the ancient mind, was simply “Hades,” or the “underworld,” the dreaded place where all people went after death.
The Office of Readings for Holy Saturday is well worth the attention of every Catholic on this day of silence and gratitude:
I slept on the Cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in Paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in Hell. The sword that pierced Me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.from an ancient homily
Suggestion: Maintain the silence of Good Friday until sundown, and take time to read the entirety of the “ancient homily.” Then plan to attend your parish’s Easter Vigil.
What are your family traditions for the Holy Triduum? Comment below!