With the beginning of Holy Thursday Mass, Lent enters its penultimate phase with the Triduum—the celebration of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. The Triduum is one liturgical act that begins with the opening procession of Holy Thursday Mass and continues uninterrupted until the closing procession of the Easter Vigil. The services on Good Friday, for example, have no official opening or closing because they are simply a continuation of the one prayer of the Triduum. During these three days, we will live and breathe the Paschal Mystery.
With Mass on Holy Thursday, in particular, the Church remembers the Last Supper at which Jesus offered us his body and blood in gifts of bread and wine. This Mass recalls the love by which Christ gave himself to us on the cross, and invites us to embrace and enact this love in service to one another. Read more about Holy Thursday here.
On Good Friday, we recall Jesus’ trial and scourging, his suffering and death on the cross. Catholics observe today with mournful solemnity, and with the practice of abstaining from meat and fasting.
After the Mass of the Lord’s Supper yesterday, the church is stripped of any ornamentation, and the altar is laid bare. The Eucharist is removed from the tabernacle and placed in a separate altar of repose. By tradition, no Sacraments are celebrated today because the Church recall’s Jesus’ death, and consequent temporary absence from humanity. The liturgy today, then, is not a Mass, but a communion service at which the assembly receives from the Body of Christ that was consecrated on Holy Thursday.
The priest leads today’s liturgy without an opening or closing procession because it is simply a continuation of the one Triduum liturgy that spans three days and culminates in the Easter Vigil. Read more about Good Friday here.
Today, the Church recalls Jesus' suffering and death, and waits in hope to celebrate the resurrection, by which we receive new and abundant life. Like yesterday, no sacraments are celebrated today because we recall Jesus’ entombment in death. This day is the quietest moment of the Church year—there are no liturgical services today as we wait outside of the tomb.
After Saturday evening, when the Easter vigil is celebrated in anticipation of the Lord’s resurrection, the Church rejoices in the gift of new life with this feast, the high point of the Church year.
Saturday night and Sunday, the Church marks the central moment of our salvation from death—the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those who have been preparing to enter the Church are baptized at the Easter Vigil because the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is the very mystery that they are entering--it is the mystery that marks the life of anyone who has been baptized.
Sunday begins the Easter octave—a period of eight days, Sunday to Sunday—during which we celebrate the saving event of Jesus’ resurrection. According to the Church year, this whole week collapses into one single day, and the liturgy on each day of this week is a full-hearted, joyful celebration of Easter all over again. After the Easter octave, we will begin the Easter season, which lasts 50 days and culminates in Pentecost, the feast of the sending of the Holy Spirit. Read more about Easter here.
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