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Sacred Triduum

Wordle of Sacred Triduum rites

The Triduum – the most sacred time in the church’s year…
The time encompassing the death and resurrection of Christ…

Holy Thursday to Easter Day…
These days are one liturgy of three interlocking rites…
The Liturgy of Maundy Thursday
The Liturgy of Good Friday
The Great Vigil of Easter

The Eucharist on Thursday evening, in a sense is not the last thing that happens on Maundy Thursday
but the first thing that happens on the Jewish Friday.
There is no dismissal at the end nor a greeting or dismissal on Good Friday – this is one long service across some days with breaks…
This year of course we actually celebrate the Triduum at the same time as the Jewish Passover.

We walk in on Maundy Thursday and dance out at Easter….

Triduum is a different way to approach time…
There is prayer, fasting, reflection, sacred reading…
Keep these days as sacred…
Like a sort of retreat…
Simplify…
Don’t crowd your schedule…
Use the liturgies as the foundation…
Eucharist; footwashing; adoration…
Morning Prayer on Good Friday…

Evening Prayer…
Morning Prayer on Holy Saturday…
Easter Vigil…

We are not merely acting out a past event…
Yes – the Last Supper, death, and resurrection are historical events…
They are also a reality that happens here for us today…

The image is a wordle I made from the rites for the Sacred Triduum in Celebrating Eucharist.

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18 Responses to Sacred Triduum

  1. Thanks for a great reflection…. I will use some of it in my commentary tonight if you don’t mind……….especially “Walk in on Thursday.. Dance out on Sunday!!!” GREAT visual!!!
    ALL Blessings of the season!!

  2. I must confess that I’ve never really “got” all this liturgical business and fussiness with Saturday. (Over the years, from my low church roots, I’ve gradually gone “up the candle”. But all this makes me want to rocket determinedly back down to ground level!)

    Correct me if I’m wrong here. I’m not a theologian at all. But on Friday, it was all over. Done. Ended. Silence. Nothingness. “It is finished.” The last event is Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus burying the body, ensuring this is done quickly, before the Sabbath.

    Then… nothing.

    All day Saturday… nothing. Absolutely nothing.

    The next events are the various Sunday morning accounts. The absolute earliest is Mary, solitary, on her own, “on the first day of the week, while it was still dark”.

    So Saturday is absolutely empty. And that is the whole point. In “real time”, it hammers home the message that the crucifixion was the end, and we’d better get used to it, and pick up the fragments of our broken lives as best we can, because there is no more to it than that. Jesus was forsaken by God. And we’ve been forsaken by Jesus.

    Saturday is empty and void and meaningless.

    I went once to an Easter Vigil at 7.30pm in a Saturday evening; it lasted about an hour. And it was resurrection, and we sang alleluias and things. And we sort of had the Resurrection far too early, so Sunday was a let down. Never again.

    If we are really, really keen, then let’s do something that starts specifically after midnight, following in the footsteps of Mary Magdelene, and that stays through the night, into the morning.

    But for most of us, like all the other followers, it really only starts later in the morning.

    Why, oh why, can’t we just let Saturday be, in all its claustrophobic fullness of stark emptiness; a day when, as in the original account, nothing whatsoever happened. That, surely is an integral part of our discipleship, including its failures and our failures, during the week that we call holy.

    • Thank you so much, David, for your honest questions – probably on the minds of many.

      First of all, let’s deal with “fussiness” – this site is all about lessening fussiness – less wordiness – let the great symbols speak. Symbols, signs, vesture, gesture… may they be bold, clean, un-fussy… allow them to speak…

      “low church roots” – I do not like high church/low church etc categories. I think they have worn thin. We have moved beyond them. We need to move beyond them. That having been said, your “low church roots” are showing throughout your comment. I think things are more both/and than either/or. “Low church roots” stresses either/or, and, in particular, that in services it’s what happens in our heads that’s important. To simplify, “low church roots” has the service of Holy Communion, for example, as a memorial in one’s head to a dead Christ.

      This reduces Holy Week liturgy to a mental re-imagining of the last week of Jesus’ life: Palm Sunday with a donkey (and no Passion narrative as per the lectionary and the great tradition); Maundy Thursday with foot washing, Last Supper re-enactment; Good Friday with a Golgotha re-enactment, maybe with a play, the “seven last words”, a three hours service, etc.

      I hope you read on this site:

      There is a particularly strong tendency on Palm Sunday and in Holy Week following to reduce our celebration to a factitious play, complete, if at all possible, with actual donkey. There is drama in liturgy, certainly. But this is not merely a recalling of some past events in the hope of generating some spiritual emotion. We are participating in the celebration of the mystery – a mystery made present in this very celebration. There was an actual, past, historical event – and the effect of it is made present in our lives now. We are not merely pretending that Christ is entering Jerusalem now, Christ is presiding at his last meal now, Christ is dying now, Christ is rising now. Those are past events. Yet this paschal mystery of death and resurrection needs to be present now at every moment, empowering and giving meaning to every moment. As we celebrate the paschal mystery this Holy Week the hope is not merely that we might see Christ die and rise again – the hope is that we will die and rise again. That we will experience Christ’s death and resurrection as a reality in our own lives. And in that of our community.

      That is the approach of my book, Celebrating Eucharist. When we meet on Good Friday we do so to celebrate Christ’s death in the presence of the Risen Christ.

      There’s plenty on this site about Holy Saturday. Here’s a starter for Holy Saturday reflection.

      Following your desire to get all your ducks neatly in a row, with Jesus predicting he will be in the grave “three days and three nights” (Matthew 12:40) one ends up with the Last Supper needing to be on Wednesday, and the crucifixion on Thursday and not as you are suggesting at all.

      “If we are really, really keen, then let’s do something that starts specifically after midnight” – that is not the Jewish/Jesus’ way of reckoning days. Sunday, in Jewish/Jesus’ understanding commences sundown Saturday, just as I noted in Jesus’/Jewish understanding the Last Supper was on the same day as Jesus died.

      There is so much more to dialogue with your points, David, but I hope these are some starters. Thanks again for raising them.

      Blessings.

      • I’m a bit like David, and still learning to understand many of these traditions, since we don’t have them so much in my denomination.

        Is it perhaps a little like the tension of the Kingdom of God being like what one preacher taught us as “here and not yet”. The Kingdom has been “here” since Jesus walked among us 2000 years ago, yet we are still living in a world where there is suffering and pain and grief, waiting for the Kingdom to be finally fulfilled (the “not-yet”).

        Similarly, on Good Friday we focus on the Crucifixion, with the perspective of the Resurrection. It’s like knowing what happens next helps us to make sense of what’s happening now. It wasn’t until after the Resurrection that the disciples began to understand the Hebrew scriptures that the Christ must suffer and die. And it was the risen Jesus that showed it to them.

        Thanks for your links for Holy Saturday Bosco. I hope you don’t mind if I link to that on my blog post for tomorrow.

        God Bless.

      • Many, many thanks for your reply, which I much appreciate.

        My apologies for my note being far too strong: it certainly was not intended to be personal. Indeed, I greatly appreciate your thoughts on such matters.

        During the week, I had seen lots of emails from a particular church email list, proclaiming what liturgies people were doing early on Saturday evening, and they all included Easter Day hymns, massive noisy clatterings and huge organ chords supposedly to symbolise the resurrection etc.; it just didn’t feel right, as they were then going to go home, still on Saturday evening.

        I appreciate the Jewish day not being measured at midnight but the evening before. The gospel accounts seem to indicate that the first arrivals were at dawn on the first day of the week (Sunday).

        So my apologies again for (what seems in retrospect) venting it inappropriately here.

        • Thanks, David, but no apology needed here. I hope this is a safe place to air ideas, and even change our mind. You’ll certainly see me, from time to time, changing my mind as the comments come in. Blessings.

        • You might also remember that Jesus arose during the night before the women arrived on Sunday morning. So, a service specifically commemorating the Resurrection could possibly take place durin the night, when Jesus overcame the power of darkness.

          My saying this is proof that I was listning to the sermon at the Vigil. I had never thought of it that way before.

          • Thanks, Bob, a fascinating thought to add here. Our bishop, in the Sunday newspaper, wrote that the death and resurrection of Jesus were one event. Easter Season blessings.

  3. I’m with Bosco on his reflections during the ‘Great Three Days’ – Triduum. The Church, through many centuries now, has set aside these last three days as a time for action and reflection. To follow the events in a chronological time-frame helps some of us to focus on the movement (liturgy) from dereliction to resurrection, with time to ponder.

    Last night’s Celebration of the Last Supper, The Foot-Washing (with the accompanying recitation of the Mandatum ‘Love one another, as I have loved you’; and the Procession of the Remains to the altar of Repose (Garden of Gethsemane) was like ‘Being There’ – a wonderful time of reflection.
    The following Vigil with Christ – in the Garden was very peace-making.

    I’m looking forward to today’s Passion Gospel, with the veneration of Christ on the Cross, and subsequent reception of the ‘remainder of the H.C.’ – before departing in silence to await the Good News of the Easter Vigil – hopeful of the Joy of the Resurrection.

    You can’t beat good liturgical celebration to enlighten both heart and mind to the reality of the Good News of Jesus Christ!

  4. Thank you, Bosco. Valuable thoughts. I enjoy the meditative nature of Easter Eve and regret that Morning Prayer isn’t offered in parishes on this day. The Harrowing of Hell gives one plenty to reflect on. Proclaiming the Gospel to the spirits of past human generations and harrowing hell gives the Lord Jesus much saving work to do after 3pm Good Friday!

    I’d like to ask about attenuating the Daily Office during the Triduum – ie omitting the introductions, doxologies, hymns, versicles and responses, creed, lesser litany, the Grace and dismissals; and thereby reducing the Office to its bare bones of psalms, Scripture readings, canticles, the Lord’s Prayer and collect(s).

    The pre-Common Worship C of E ‘Lent, Holy Week, Easter’ publication permitted this and it works very well in my opinion. I assume that it’s an ancient practice, it adds to the solemnity, shortens the Office so time is freed up to attend the public liturgies, and when the full-feature Office returns on Sunday morning, it feels truly festive!

    What puzzles me is that many Anglican Good Friday liturgies (and Rome’s) are attenuated up to a point but this does not generally extend to the Office. Why not? It used to before Vatican II and it seems odd for the Office to be out of step with the Triduum liturgies.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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