The Easter Triduum

The Easter Triduum begins on the evening of Holy Thursday and ends on the evening of Easter Sunday. The word “Triduum” comes from two Latin words which mean “three days”. Why do we speak of a period of three days when we have four days with special names – Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday? This is easily explained. On all high festival days, the Church counts a day in the same way as the Jewish faith counts days and festivals – from sundown to sundown.

For us as Catholics, however, the Triduum is liturgically one celebration. Therefore, the Easter Triduum begins at sundown on Holy Thursday with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, continues with the celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday and concludes with the day of the Lord’s Resurrection, which includes the Easter Vigil.

Holy Thursday

On Holy Thursday, we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which includes the washing of feet. The Last Supper was a meal of unity, love and shared life; it was there that the disciples bound themselves to follow Christ wherever He went. Through our participation in this liturgy, we too bind ourselves to follow Jesus in His death and resurrection. It was also at the Last Supper that Jesus instituted the Eucharist for the Church. Each time we celebrate the Eucharist we participate again in the death and resurrection of Jesus and commit ourselves to be His disciples. The washing of the feet is a sign to us, as it was to His disciples that night, of the service we are called to live. This Mass ends in silence without a closing procession because our celebration has not ended. We are all invited to spend time in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, keeping watch with Jesus as we prepare for Good Friday.

Good Friday

Good Friday is the only day of the year when the Roman Catholic Church does not celebrate Mass. It is a day of fasting and abstinence. We celebrate the Lord’s Passion in the afternoon. We stand and listen as the Passion of Jesus is proclaimed and we remember how He suffered and died for our sins. We also participate in the Adoration of the Cross by kneeling or bowing before the cross, by kissing it or by touching it respectfully. We do this to acknowledge the cross as the means of our salvation. Also on Good Friday we use the expanded form of General Intercessions. We pray the ten intercessions that are prayed by the entire Church – for the Church, for Christian unity, for the Jewish people, for those who do not believe in God or in Christ, for that in public office and for people who are suffering or experiencing difficulties in their lives. These prayers recognize the universality of our Church and the need for us to be aware of faiths different from our own.

Easter Vigil

The Easter Vigil is the high point of the Easter Triduum. The Vigil includes the blessing of the Easter fire and the Paschal candle, the singing of the Easter Proclamation, the expanded Liturgy of the Word that traces the story of our Salvation, the Liturgy of Initiation in which people become new members of the Church and the celebration of the Eucharist.

During the Triduum, we celebrate the essential mystery of our Christian faith: Jesus’ triumph over death and our own participation in that resurrection. We come together in a special way to remember the saving act of Jesus and the miracle of His Resurrection and we celebrate our faith and identity as Christians