As we draw near to our Holy Week I wanted to share some reflections on the Triduum services of Holy Week and extend an invitation to let these services be a time of prayer and reflection for all. Please keep the women of our Parish, who are on retreat, in your prayers this week.
THE SACRED TRIDUUM
Sundown on Holy Thursday to sundown on Easter Sunday is considered the most solemn part of the liturgical year. This three-day period is referred to as the Easter Triduum, also known as the Sacred Triduum, or Paschal Triduum.
The word "triduum" comes from the Latin word triduum, which comes from tris (“three”) + dies (“day”). Basically, the Sacred Triduum is one great festival recounting the last three days of Jesus' life on earth, the events of his Passion and Resurrection, when the Lamb of God laid down his life in atonement for our sins.
It is known as the "Paschal Mystery" because it is the ultimate fulfillment of the ancient Jewish Passover (or Pasch), which itself was a recollection of how God brought the Jews out of their slavery in Egypt. The spotless lamb was slaughtered at the Passover meal and consumed—that same night the destroying angel "passed over" the homes marked with the blood of the Passover Lamb, and those covered by the Blood were saved. This was the Old Testament prefigurement of Jesus' work at the Last Supper—where he inserted himself as the Paschal Lamb—and Calvary, where the sacrifice was offered to save us from our slavery to sin. With the Holy Eucharist, we consume the victim that died for our sins.
The Paschal Mystery is, therefore, God's plan of redemption for the fallen human race through the passion, death, and resurrection of the God-man Jesus Christ. It is one marvelous event stretched out over three days.
In washing His disciples’ feet on Holy Thursday, Jesus commissioned them in a new priesthood; in Holy Communion, He initiated their ritual sacrifice. His last words fell from the Cross on Good Friday, and with them, His last breath. The bare altar, stripped of its garments on Holy Thursday and Good Friday, stands for the naked Christ. The tabernacle, empty of His Real Presence in the Eucharist, signifies the missing Christ.
The celebration of the Easter Vigil tells the whole story of our salvation — from creation to resurrection and beyond. The Easter Vigil includes the lighting of the Easter Fire and Paschal Candle (the large candle that will be used throughout the year), the singing of the Exsultet (the Easter Proclamation), the expanded Liturgy of the Word that traces time through Salvation History (the story of our Salvation), the Liturgy of Initiation (where new people come into the Church), and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
All these rituals come together for one purpose: to remember and recall the saving deeds of our God on our behalf. Saint Paul wrote to the Corinthians that “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” (1 Cor 15:14). There would simply be no Christianity if Christ were not raised from the dead.
This realization makes the celebration of Easter Sunday, and every Sunday, so much the more joyful. The Alleluia that the Western Church buries on Ash Wednesday is once again intoned before the Gospel, and Easter joy abounds, all the sweeter for following the Lenten time of mourning.
Msgr John Shamleffer