The Triduum starts on Thursday night and lasts until the Easter Vigil on Saturday night. This is the most holy time of the year. Even though it only spans three days, it’s considered its own liturgical season. If you’ve never participated in the entire Triduum in your life, this is a good time to start. The Triduum is a single worship service that lasts three days. It’s not three services. Pay close attention during the Triduum. If you pastor is celebrating properly, the Mass on Holy Thursday starts with the sign of the cross (like other Masses) but there is no sign of the cross or final blessing at the end of Mass. Instead, the Blessed Sacrament is typically processed through the church and laid in the place of reposition. In this manner, we can accompany Christ in spirit to the Garden of Gethsemane and pray with Him. As Christ in on the verge of being betrayed and arrested, we are deprived of the final blessing at the end of Holy Thursday. Make an effort to stay with Him for a while after the Mass. The Lord never short-changes us when we devote time to Him. The graces received during this time of Adoration will shine forever in eternal glory.
On Good Friday, the service does not start with a sign of the cross because we’re resuming the service that started the night before. Note that Good Friday is the only day in the year when no Mass is celebrated. The Good Friday service is not a Mass, since no bread and wine are consecrated and transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. We receive communion from the hosts consecrated the night before.
It has always amazed me that despite the fact that each Mass brings down infinite graces on the faithful, the Church still chooses to deprive Herself of Mass on Good Friday to commemorate the suffering and death of our Lord. We aren’t even permitted to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. It’s a way for us to share in the desolation of Christ’s Passion. So we leave the Tabernacle empty, with the door wide open and the lamp of the Sanctuary blown out. A great and silent void, much as the Apostles experienced. The Master is gone.
Despite this void, the infinite merits of Christ’s Passion are still available to us. As such, the Church takes advantage of this day to present numerous intercessions and supplications for many different intentions. We lean more heavily on God’s unrestrained generosity on this particular day when His bounty became so manifest through the death of His Son.
Be alert. Don’t sleepwalk through the service. Don’t genuflect before the empty Tabernacle. He’s not there. Be conscious of His absence.
The Good Friday service ends without a sign of the cross. Likewise, the Easter Vigil on Saturday night starts without a sign of the cross, because we’re still in the same service that started on Holy Thursday. The Easter Vigil is the most beautiful Mass of the year. Please don’t miss it. The liturgy and the rites are so rich in symbolism and meaning.
The Vigil is meant to start with the “service of the light.” The lights are left off, as the darkness symbolizes the obscurity in the world prior to Christ. The Easter candle is then blessed and typically processed into the church. This symbolizes Christ bringing the light of Truth and salvation to humanity. Each person has their individual candle lit from that flame. This symbolizes how the new life of faith is beautifully transmitted across time and space, with everyone’s faith originating in the unique source which is Christ. If you’re attending the Vigil with family, let the parents light their candles first. Then they should light the candles of their children. After all, this is how the faith was transmitted too, from parent to child. Please don’t light your candle with a match or lighter. Get your fire from the One Flame.
Then comes the Exsultet, a beautiful prayer of exuberant rejoicing that is meant to be sung by a cantor. Stir up in your heart a joyful spirit by becoming conscious of the wonder of your redemption. What bold words the Church dares to pray in Her uncontainable exhilaration!
What good would life have been to us, had Christ not come as our Redeemer? Father, how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love! To ransom a slave you gave away your Son. O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!
The readings and prayers of the Easter Vigil are truly sublime. They’re meant to be a recap of the history of Man and of God’s faithfulness to us. It starts with the account of Creation. Then we hear of God’s fidelity to His promises to Abraham and His mighty intervention to free Israel from slavery in Egypt, which was a prefiguration of God saving humanity from the slavery of sin. It continues with readings from the prophets about God’s promises of salvation over the centuries. Then we finally come to the moment when all these promises are fulfilled: the Resurrection.
If you’re fortunate, you’ll have some catechumens being baptized or Christians being confirmed. Again, be alert. Visualize the soul of the catechumen being restored to life and purity by the waters of baptism. See the Holy Spirit descending in power upon the confirmed. Supernatural power is on display before your eyes. Don’t miss it!
We then proceed with the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which is similar to other Masses during the year, although with a more beautiful Eucharistic Prayer being used. Bread and wine are consecrated again. The Real Presence of Christ returns to our midst. He’s back. 🙂
It’s only at the end of the Easter Vigil, once Christ has returned to His Tabernacle and the lamp of the Sanctuary is kindled anew that we complete the Triduum with a solemn blessing. Thus our three-day journey comes to an end. Hopefully, we’ll all be richer from the graces that flow at this special time. God bless.