Sacred Triduum

The Holy Thursday evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper marks the beginning of the Easter Triduum, which includes Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. These days recall Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples, death on the cross, burial, and resurrection. Thus, even though the liturgical year begins chronologically at Advent, it reaches its culmination during the Easter Triduum, particularly at Easter, the “solemnity of solemnities,” the “Great Feast.” The Catholic Catechism describes the importance of the Triduum:

Beginning with the Easter Triduum as its source of light, the new age of the Resurrection fills the whole liturgical year with its brilliance. Gradually, on either side of this source, the year is transfigured by the liturgy. It really is a “year of the Lord’s favor.” The economy of salvation is at work within the framework of time, but since its fulfillment in the Passover of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the culmination of history is anticipated “as a foretaste,” and the kingdom of God enters into our time (1168).

The Triduum is the great Three Days that celebrate the central mystery of our faith.  Triduum rituals invite us all to baptismal renewal, par excellence. Here are some examples:

Washing of Feet: After the homily on Holy Thursday, we imitate our master in the washing of feet.  This ritual reminds us that our baptismal commitment means we are to be servants of one another.  In the time of St. Ambrose in Milan, those who were baptized also had their feet washed, because of Jesus’ words to Peter: “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed” (Jn 13:10).  Many scholars have seen a baptismal reference in those words.

Veneration of the Cross: As part of our observance of Good Friday, we venerate the cross on which Christ died.  The veneration challenges us to be willing to accept the cross, too, for it is the only way to resurrection.  Through Baptism, we shared in Christ’s death that we might come to new life.  Every year we are called to deepen our identification with His cross and resurrection.

Waters of Baptism: The core of our celebration of the Easter Vigil is the Baptism of the elect.   As we share in their joy on this holy night, we are all called to renew our own baptismal promises, to live in the joy of life in the Risen One.  Lent comes to its fulfillment around the waters of the baptismal font.