Triduum: three days to Easter

April 2015 Reflection Fr Patrick Bridgman This word ‘triduum’ has more recently returned to the common vocabulary of the Church, although it has always been part of the Tradition. It…

April 2015


Fr Patrick Bridgman

This word ‘triduum’ has more recently returned to the common vocabulary of the Church, although it has always been part of the Tradition. It refers to the three most holy days of the year:

‘The Paschal Triduum of the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, has its centre in the Easter Vigil, and closes with Vespers (Evening Prayer) of the Sunday of the Resurrection.’ (Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and Calendar)

Yet before those days dawn, the diocese gathers in the fullness of ecclesial signs; Bishop surrounded by God’s people – priests by Baptism and priests in ordained ministry. And there at the Chrism Mass, in Cathedral or Church, the oils that will be the Spirit’s strength and balm in Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, and in the Anointing of the Sick are blessed and consecrated for the year ahead.

How is the Triduum three days, when it seems to cover four? The first day of the Triduum is from Holy Thursday sunset to Good Friday sunset. The second day goes from the sunset of Friday until Holy Saturday sunset. And then the third day of the Triduum begins Holy Saturday sunset until the sunset of Easter Sunday.

During these days we leave behind the Lenten purple and the Church briefly wears white for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The Gloria, silent during the past 40 days, can now be sung, and bells can be rung, though they again fall silent until the Vigil Mass of the Resurrection. Feet are washed, and example is given; which we are challenged to follow. We are also reminded of the invitation and command to break bread and pour wine in memory of Him who is our salvation, and to remain with Him in the quiet of the garden night.

The red of passion and blood we don as we walk the way of the Cross on Good Friday; as we gather to listen to St John’s Passion of the Lord; as we pray for all God’s people; as we adore the wood of the Cross; and as we receive Holy Communion. Remembering, even on this ‘darkest of days’, we know today, in 2015, ‘the Lord is Risen’, and offers His life to us in the Eucharist as we remember His death.

Holy Saturday is a day for silence, to remember the tomb. We wait, pray, and fast. We are invited to put all aside. Yes, even the modern ‘Easter Saturday Sales’. And together as family and as parish we visit the stilled Church, with tabernacle open and empty.

Then with vesture of golden white, with fire blazing, and Paschal Candle held aloft we proclaim; ‘The Light of Christ!’ ‘Thanks be to God!’ Through hearing the readings from Testaments old and new we come to proclaim in the Gospel, ‘He is Risen Indeed!’ And our hearts confirm this truth as we see our fellow pilgrims in faith be plunged into the waters of baptism, and rise to new life in the Church, as they are anointed with the Chrism of the Spirit, and join us for the first time at the Table of the Lord to receive the Easter Sacrament; the Risen Lord’s Body and Blood.

And into Easter Sunday we go, recounting the early moments of encounter between the disciples and the Risen Lord, as we gather through the morning, and into the evening under the Paschal Candles light!

Fr Patrick Bridgman is parish priest for Te Awakairangi Parish, the Archdiocese of Wellington’s Liturgy adviser and teaches the Sacraments and Liturgy at The Catholic Institute.