Once each year we have the unique opportunity to spend three days together as a parish family observing the signature days from which we derive our identity as followers of the Christian faith. These three days are known in the Church as the “Triduum Sacrum” – the Sacred Three Days. They include Maundy Thursday, Good (God’s) Friday, and Holy Saturday, culminating in the Great Vigil. Together, they create a “liminal” space, a threshold through which we move from ordinary to extraordinary time.
Think of other liminal times in your life. Perhaps you were present with someone when they received unexpected news of a death and you stayed for days just to be connected to the person; perhaps warming food, answering the door, reading to a child, or helping with carpool. Every person present during those days realized that this was where they needed to be, that for that time “being” truly became embodied in community.
Participating in the limen that happens around the observation of the Triduum Sacrum is the same idea. Through a variety of liturgies, each with its own rhythm and mood, we experience each other as truly Christ’s body in community. As beautiful as Easter Sunday services are, limiting your participation to that one event limits the deep joy that is a part of walking through all three of the sacred days and nights together. Perhaps a brief description of the Sacred Three Days would serve to encourage participation.
Maundy Thursday: April 2
Maundy Thursday comes from the Latin word for commandment “mandatum.” In John 13:34, Jesus says to his disciples “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another just as I have loved you.” The service at 7:00 PM can include a simple liturgy in which persons who so desire may come forward to have their feet washed, and we each take turns washing each other’s feet, just as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples before the Last Supper with them. Following the Eucharist, the altar is stripped and washed clean and all the accoutrement of worship is removed from the church, while the congregation prays the solemn psalm together. This stark removal of everything we love and use to celebrate sets the tone for the hours of despair that are associated with Jesus’ crucifixion and death. It is a solemn service after which worshippers exit in silence without dismissal. (This is because the three days are considered all one day in liturgical terms.)
Following this service, a garden scene is created in the Chapel following the events the night after Jesus shared his last supper with his disciples, where he asked them to pray with him an hour. Parishioners will spend an hour at scheduled intervals from the beginning of this vigil—this Sacred Watch–around 8:00 PM and throughout the night, ending at noon on Good (God’s) Friday.
Parishioners who would like to participate in the sacred watch are invited to sign up for a shift at the information table, or call the office.
Good Friday: April 3
Good Friday, a name that derives from “God’s Friday”, is the day we commemorate the crucifixion of our Lord. The service opens in silence (the continuation of the silence from the close of Maundy Thursday service). The first part begins with the Good Friday Liturgy in the Nave at 12:00 PM. During this liturgy there will be an opportunity for any who desire to venerate the cross. Such veneration (optional) can include kneeling before the cross for a moment of prayer, kissing the cross in devotion to Jesus, or simply touching the cross as a sign of thanksgiving for Jesus’ death.
At 3:00 PM, parishioners are invited to walk the Way of the Cross by moving throughout the Nave, stopping at each Station of the Cross to join in prayers specific to each place that Jesus stopped along his journey from the time of his scourging to the time he is lain in the tomb.
Holy Saturday: April 4
Holy Saturday begins at 8:30 AM in the Chapel for a very brief liturgy of prayer and blessing for those many persons who will be busy that day with the sacred work of preparing for the Great Vigil. Too often, this day is approached simply as a long day of brass polishing, flower arranging, cleaning, and dusting without a true sense that each person present is doing a part of anticipating the joy of the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord. This Holy Saturday morning liturgy is a solemn way of setting the tone for all that happens that day and anyone who desires may attend. It is not limited to those who will be preparing the church.
Finally, at 8:00 PM we will begin the Great Vigil! This is clearly the most aesthetically dramatic liturgy in the Church year. It begins in darkness outside the building with the lighting of the new fire and the kindling of the Paschal Candle. The lessons that are the narrative of our entire salvation history will be told during the first part of the service, all of which happens in darkness—itself a dramatic setting. Midway through this service when the Eucharist begins, the Season of Lent officially concludes with the celebrant proclaiming in a loud shout “Alleluia! Christ is risen!” To which the people respond joyfully, “The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.” At this point, the lights are illumined, bells ring out, and the joyous celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord commences!!
Perhaps you can imagine, just from this description, how dramatic the conclusion of the Triduum Sacrum is if you have participated in its entirety. This is who we are—the people of the Resurrection! Please consider these three days as the most special family activity you can offer those you love. Don’t miss out on a single wonderful moment!