The Triduum is known as the summit of the liturgical year. The USCCB gives us this definition:
The summit of the Liturgical Year is the Easter Triduum—from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday. Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery. The single celebration of the Triduum marks the end of the Lenten season, and leads to the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord at the Easter Vigil.
The Triduum includes the following three liturgical services: Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the Service on Good Friday, and the Mass of the Lord’s Resurrection (both Vigil and Morning Mass).
Holy Thursday morning usually includes the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of the diocese where the Bishop of the diocese blesses the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of the Catechumens, and Sacred Chrism. (In case you were wondering, Sacred Chrism is one of my favorite smells in the whole world. )
Holy Thursday is also the day we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper in the evening. This is the Mass that truly begins the Triduum. The interesting part of note here is that the Gloria is sung for the first time since the beginning of Lent and will not be sung again until the Easter Vigil.
Most Catholic children and quite a few adults likely equate this Mass with the Washing of the Feet. While that is true, this Mass also celebrates the Institution of the Eucharist.
After the Mass, there is a procession called The Transfer of the Most Blessed Sacrament wherein the Blessed Sacrament is processed from the main church into a place of repose, typically a side chapel tabernacle. During this procession, the Pange Lingua is traditionally sung. The last two verses of the Pange Lingua may be the most familiar as they are the verses of the Tantum Ergo.
Some parishes have the tradition of night-long Adoration in remembrance of Jesus praying in the garden before his arrest. My parish does not have this tradition but I do believe the doors to the chapel are left unlocked for anyone to make a visit to the Lord.
Good Friday is one of the most solemn days of the liturgical year. My missal notes,
On this day and the following day, by a most ancient tradition, the Church does not celebrate the Sacraments at all, except for Penance and the Anointing of the Sick.
This means that there is no Mass celebrated today, no new hosts consecrated. The altar is traditionally left bare without cross, candles, or linens. This gives the parish church such a somber look.
This service, the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, includes a Liturgy of the Word, Solemn Intercessions for the entire world, the Adoration of the Holy Cross, and Holy Communion. For some reason (and I do actually know why), I always end up crying during this service. I don’t think of myself as an overly emotional person but this service really gets to me.
Finally, the Church approaches Holy Saturday. My missal again notes,
On Holy Saturday the Church waits at the Lord’s tomb in prayer and fasting, meditating on His Passion and Death and on His Descent into Hell,
and awaiting His Resurrection.
This is a day of waiting. We await the Resurrection. We await the triumph of the Lord. We await Him in everything.
Then comes the Vigil of the Resurrection of the Lord. My daily missal has quite a lot to say about this:
Of this night’s Vigil, which is the greatest and most noble of all solemnities, there is to be only one celebration in each church. … The entire celebration of the Easter Vigil must take place during the night, so that it begins after nightfall and ends before daybreak on the Sunday. The Mass of the Vigil, even if it is celebrated before midnight, is a paschal Mass of the Sunday of the Resurrection.
As I mentioned in my previous post, the Easter Vigil is my favorite Mass of the year. I love it so much that last year I even attended by myself as my family was too tired to go with me.
The Vigil begins with the Blessing of the Fire and the Preparation of the Paschal Candle. I have yet to be in a parish where this part takes place inside. Usually, it is on the sidewalk or parking lot near the parish. The fire is blessed, the Paschal Candle is prepared with grains of incense.
Then there is the Procession back into the dark church with everyone sharing the light of the Paschal Candle until all of the parishioners candles are lit. Then there is the Exsultet which is basically one of my favorite things ever:
Exult, let them exult, the hosts of heaven…
This is the night,
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld. …
O love, O charity beyond all telling,
to ransom a slave you gave away your Son!
O truly necessary sin of Adam,
destroyed completely by the Death of Church!
O happy fault
that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!
O truly blessed night,
worthy alone to know the time and hour
when Christ rose from the underworld! …
O truly blessed night,
when things of heaven are wed to those of earth,
and divine to the human. …
There are then nine readings with a psalm between each one. This is what makes the Vigil Mass take so long and the reason some people don’t like to attend it. However, I think it is beautiful! If there are any catechumens, they are Baptized and Confirmed before they receive their first Holy Communion.
Truly, this is a beautiful Mass and the reason that I attend every year is because I love it so much!
Now I realize this post has gotten A LOT longer than I had originally intended. If you read all the way through it, you deserve to be commended. Don’t hesitate to share your Easter traditions or ask questions about mine. I hope you all have a beautiful and fruitful Triduum and Easter!