Ever wondered about our Holy Week and Easter Triduum traditions?

Though for this year there are no congregational gatherings for liturgical celebrations during Holy Week it is important that we remember, reflect and pray during this significant time.

Tony Worner, the Parish’s Leader of Lay Formation, has kindly prepared the following on this wonderful time:

Holy Week began on Palm Sunday (April 5) and continues through Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and ends with the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection on that night. It is greatest of all weeks in the Christian church.

Strange as it may seem, Easter Sunday, which is after the Resurrection, is not within Holy Week. It actually begins the seven weeks of the next season in the Church – the Easter Season.

The Triduum’ (Trid – you – oom), sometimes referred to as ‘the Sacred Triduum’, ‘The Paschal Triduum’ or ‘Easter Triduum’, simply means “three days” (tri = three, duum = days). It is three days, or three celebrations, or three events of Jesus – his life, death and Resurrection. It begins at sunset on Holy Thursday. (For the Jewish people, the day begins at sunset.)

The Triduum is celebrated in the liturgies of Holy Thursday evening, Good Friday afternoon and the Vigil on Holy Saturday night. In the Catholic Church, these three celebrations or days are part of the one story, the one event.

The priest, who begins Mass on Thursday evening – the Mass of the Lord’s Supper – with the sign of the cross, symbolically, demonstrates this by not repeating the sign of the cross again until the end of the Mass on Saturday night. He simply finishes Mass on Thursday evening by walking to a place set up for a period of prayer and reflection – a symbolic ‘garden’ if you like. He begins and the ends the Liturgy of Jesus’ Death on Good Friday with a simple procession in and out of the Church. He then begins the Easter Vigil with the blessing of the fire at the entrance of Church and processes the Easter or Paschal (which means relating to Easter and/or the Jewish Passover) Candle into the Church and concludes the ceremony with a special three-fold blessing and sign of the cross.

The first recording of the term ‘Holy Week’ was with St Athanasius around the beginning of the 4th Century. This was the time when Emperor Constantine made Christianity the religion of the Empire in 313CE and made it unlawful to persecute Christians.

It was not until 1880 that the Latin term ‘Triduum’ was used. And not until 1955 with Pope Pius XII, that the Triduum became a separate liturgical season and is known as the ‘Mother of all feasts’ rather than simply a ‘bridge’ between Lent, which finishes with the beginning of Mass on Holy Thursday, and the season of Easter, which begins on the Sunday.

While the whole Easter mystery is celebrated from a different point of view on each of these three days, it is not a re-enactment of past events, separated into neat historical or liturgical compartments, but a unified celebration of the mystery of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection (dying and rising) for us and our world today.

Here are some links for you to watch and listen to over the next few days that help tell the story of our Easter Celebrations:

Holy Week in 3 minutes

Holy Thursday (from Catholic.org)

Good Friday (from Catholic.org)

Easter Vigil (Reflection)

Easter Sunday  (from Catholic.org)

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