Holy Week & the Liturgies of the Triduum: Recalling the Passion, Death & Resurrection of Jesus
The church does not pretend, as it were, that it does not know what will happen with the crucified Jesus. It does not sorrow and mourn over the Lord as if the church itself were not the very creation, which has been produced from his wounded side and from the depths of his tomb. All through the services, the victory of Christ is contemplated and the resurrection is proclaimed. –Thomas Hopko
The liturgies of the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil) are connected intimately to one another. As one liturgy of Triduum, we remember Jesus’ saving action- his passion, death, and resurrection. If you have never attended any part of this three-day liturgy, we hope that you will consider joining us. In fact, we need you here to make it a full expression of the prayer of the community. Here is a description of what you will take part in when you share in the Triduum liturgies.
PALM SUNDAY OF THE LORD’S PASSION is the final Sunday of Lent. Its closeness to the end of Lent and the beginning of the Triduum gives this liturgy two very distinct and quite opposite features. We are reminded of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem through the first Gospel and the procession with palms. But once the blessing of palms concludes and we enter the church, the liturgy quickly reminds us of death, suffering, and Christ’s Passion. Notice some of the words and phrases in the opening prayer: humility, cross, giving his life…quite the contrast from the Hosanna! that we proclaim as the palms are blessed. The second reading, a hymn from Philippians explicitly shows us this contrast; Christ humbled himself. Because of this God greatly exalted him. Passion Sunday centers us upon Christ’s death in a very powerful way and in a different way from Good Friday. On Passion Sunday we celebrate the Passion of Christ’s death; whereas, on Good Friday we celebrate the glory of the cross and the power that comes from death. Also notice the Passion readings for Passion Sunday and Good Friday. On Passion Sunday, we always proclaim the Passion according to a synoptic—Matthew, Mark or Luke, but we never hear from John on Passion Sunday. The Passion of John is a somewhat different telling of the Passion. John’s Passion centers more on the glory and kingship of Christ’s Passion. For this reason, John’s Passion is reserved exclusively for Good Friday. We mark Passion Sunday with contrast. We begin today with a festive opening, but the festivity greatly diminishes throughout the liturgy. We will depart today in silence, marking the beginning of this most solemn time of the church year.
On WEDNESDAY we will celebrate Tenebrae at 7:30 p.m. Tenebrae is the Latin word for shadows or darkness. This liturgy is filled with the singing of Psalms and the proclamation of Scripture. The liturgy helps to set the tone for the coming three days of the Triduum. Seven candles are lit in the church. The candles are gradually extinguished throughout the liturgy until the church is plunged into darkness and a thunderous noise envelops the space. One candle finally returns to the church thereby bringing peace and illumination, symbolizing the continual light of Christ.
On HOLY THURSDAY we will gather at 7:30 p.m. to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. We recall Christ taking, breaking, and blessing the bread and giving us the command, “Do this in memory of me.” On this evening we proclaim the Gospel of John, where Jesus as humble servant, washes the feet of the disciples. He gives us his Mandatum (mandate) – “Love one another, as I have loved you.” So important was Jesus’ gesture of service, that our liturgy ritualizes the action. On Holy Thursday, everyone is invited to take part in washing each other’s feet. It is through this action that we truly place ourselves as humble servant to those around us. At the end of the liturgy, there is no blessing or fanfare. Instead, the entire congregation processes with song outside the church and into the lower level chapel. In this action, we process following the presence of Christ in the Eucharistic bread symbolizing our journey with him to Gethsemane. The chapel remains open until midnight for people to pray and keep watch with our Lord.
On GOOD FRIDAY we continue with the Liturgy of the Passion at 7:30 p.m. This liturgy is not a Mass. The church is dark, and we begin in silence. The presider and ministers lay face down on the floor as the congregation kneels remembering Christ’s Passion on the cross. The Passion on Good Friday is proclaimed from the Gospel of John who portrays Jesus as humble king. John helps us to remember that through the glorious cross, we are given life. The general intercessions on Good Friday take a different form, a more profound and ancient form of intercessory prayer. We pray for specific intentions, both for the church and for the world, for unity, acceptance, and peace. We also adore the cross on Friday. The cross is unveiled in the back of the church and processed up the aisle as we sing an acclamation remembering that it is through the cross that we are set free. We take time to individually touch or kiss the cross, adoring the sacred tree on which hung the savior of the world.
The EASTER VIGIL is the culmination of everything we celebrated on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. We gather at 7:30 p.m. outside the church, where a fire is burning. We light our new paschal candle from this fire and process it into the church. The light spreads to the entire church as we light our candles, symbolizing the light of Christ carried throughout the world. In the candlelight we proclaim the glory of God’s saving works in the Exsultet. A series of scripture readings follow, where we recall God’s action throughout history. With fanfare and glorious music we proclaim the resurrection of our Lord. Following the homily, adults are baptized and received into the Catholic Church. The liturgy culminates with a celebration of thanksgiving and our participation in the Eucharistic feast.
Throughout the Triduum, we celebrate our liturgies with beautiful ceremony, wonderful music and a vibrant worshipping assembly. We hope that you will be able to join with us on one or all of the major Holy Week liturgies. You will truly be renewed in your life as a Christian.