The Sacred Triduum

My wife asked me, late last week when she saw our church sign, “What is the Triduum?” I thought some of you might wonder the same unless you grew up in a tradition that celebrates all the major portions of Holy Week.

cover-icon Triduum is Latin for “three-day period.” The Triduum is a solemn celebration of the mysteries of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. It begins with the Eucharist on Thursday evening and concludes with what is called “the Evening Prayer” on Saturday. On Friday our own church will strip the altar of all symbols, cups, trays, candles, etc.

Holy Thursday commemorates Jesus’ last meal with his disciples. Here the ritual of washing the feet is often included. This ritual had a profound impact on me when I first began to take part in it several years ago. This day is often called Maundy Thursday because Jesus gave his new commandment on this day. Maundy comes from the word mandatum, which means mandate or commandment. The celebration of the Lord’s Passion comes on Friday, traditionally during the afternoon of Good Friday. I attended a simple service, at midday, where the stations of the cross are each remembered in the liturgy. I often attend an evening service as well.

The Week Today, Holy Saturday, commemorates Jesus’ burial and his “descent into hell.” Most ancient churches have no special liturgical service on Saturday during the day time hours but the Easter Vigil is celebrated tonight. In Orthodoxy the vigil leads right into Easter celebration just after midnight. In most Western churches Easter is held at sunrise, or during the morning hours, on Easter Day.

So if you hear the word Triduum, or see a sign today speaking of the Easter Triduum, now you know. May your hearts and lives be shaped by the sacred and holy mysteries of these hours.

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