What is the Triduum?
Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter
The Triduum in the Catholic Church relates to the Liturgical Year as Sunday relates to the week. It begins with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the evening of Holy Thursday and it ends with the evening prayers on Easter Sunday.
Lent concludes at the beginning of the Mass on Holy Thursday. Easter Sunday concludes the Triduum and at the same time begins the fifty days of Easter until the feast of Pentecost when we celebrate the descend of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles.
Holy Thursday celebrates the Lord’s Supper. On Good Friday we commemorate the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and His death on the Cross. On the vigil of Easter Sunday and all day Easter Sunday we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. It begins the fifty days of the Easter season.
LEAP OF FAITH
Message of Pope John Paul II about the Triduum
1. At the end of Lent, Holy Week brings us immediately to the feast of Easter and is called "holy" precisely because during this week the basic events of the Christian religion are commemorated: the institution of the Eucharist, Jesus' passion and death on the cross and the Redeemer's glorious resurrection.
During the Sacred Triduum, therefore, we are invited to meditate on and live with deeper fervor the "the central mystery of salvation", by participating in the solemn liturgical celebrations which enable us to relive the final days of Jesus' life. For every person they have a lasting, essential value.
2. Holy Thursday takes us back to the institution of the Eucharist, the supreme gift of God's love in his plan of redemption. During the Supper that evening, Jesus mystically anticipated the sacrifice of Calvary and gave himself in sacrifice, under the appearances of Bread and Wine, as he himself had foretold (cf. Jn 6) and entrusted to the Apostles and their successors the mission and power of perpetuating its memory by repeating the same rite: "Do this in memory of me!"
Writing to the Corinthians around A.D. 53-56, the Apostle Paul strengthened the first Christians in the truth of the "Eucharist mystery" by sharing with them what he himself had learned: "For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me'. In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me'" (1 Cor 11:23-25). Words of fundamental importance! They recall what Jesus actually did at the Last Supper; they proclaim to us the "sacrificial" intention through the "consecration" of bread and wine, replacing the sacrificial lamb of the Jews, and his express intention to make the Apostles and their successors the ministers of the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is a communion of love
The Eucharist, as Christ's real presence and as the sacrament of interior communion of love and salvation; the priesthood, as the Eucharistic ministry reserved to the Apostles and their successors: this is the essential meaning of Holy Thursday. It is a question of a "dogma of faith", to be accepted then with deep, abiding gratitude. It means Christ's gift, to be increasingly appreciated in an attitude of sincere, intense devotion.
St. Paul warns the faithful of Corinth: "Therefore whoever eats the Bread or drinks the Cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the Body and Blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the Bread and drink the Cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the Body, eats and drinks judgment on himself" (1 Cor 11:27-29).
Thursday, the first day of the Sacred Triduum, is also an excellent occasion to pray for priests that they may always correspond to their dignity, since their life is totally consecrated to the Eucharist.
3. Good Friday makes us relive the "sorrowful mystery" of Jesus' passion and death on the cross.
In relation to the Crucified, the words he spoke at the Last Supper take on dramatic importance: "This is my blood of the new covenant, which will be shed for many, for the forgiveness of sins" (cf Mk 14:24; Mt 26:28; Lk 22:20).
Jesus wanted to offer his life in sacrifice for the forgiveness of humanity's sins. To accomplish this he chose crucifixion, the cruelest and most humiliating death. St. Peter regards it this way in his First Letter: Jesus "himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed" (1 Pt 2:24-25). And several times St. Paul stresses that "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Cor 15:3); "Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering" (Eph 5:2); "For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as ransom for all" (1 Tm 2:5-6).
As with the Eucharist, so too with Jesus' passion and death on the cross, the mystery becomes vast and unfathomable for human reason. In as much as he is true man, the Messiah indeed suffered unspeakably, from the spiritual agony in Gethsemani to the long, dreadful agony on the cross. The way to Calvary was one of indescribable suffering, leading to the frightful torture of crucifixion. What a mystery is Christ's passion: God made man suffer to save man, taking upon himself all the tragedy of humanity.
Good Friday, therefore, brings to mind the continuous succession of historical trials, the human events marked by the perennial struggle between good and evil. The cross is truly the scale of history: it is understood and accepted only by meditating on and loving the Crucified. St. John wrote: "In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins" (1 Jn 4:10); and St. Paul asserted: "God proves his love for us that while we were still sinners Christ dies for us" (Rom 5:8).
In his plan of salvation and sanctification, God does not follow our ways: he undergoes the cross to reach his glorification, thus spurring us to patience and confidence. Dear brothers and sisters, let us learn from Good Friday to accompany Jesus on his way of sorrow, with humility, trust and abandonment to the will of God, finding support and comfort amidst the sufferings of life in the cross of Christ.
Resurrection is guarantee of Christ's divinity
4. The Sacred Triduum concludes with the radiant "glorious mystery" of Christ's resurrection. He had foretold: "On the third day I shall rise again!"
It is the definitive victory of life over death. Jesus will appear after his resurrection to Mary Magdalene, to the devout women, to the Apostles and then to the disciples. He will show them the marks of the crucifixion on his body. He will let them touch his person, he will eat with the Apostles and allow them to experience the wonderful newness of his glorified body.
For believers the resurrection is the final, definitive guarantee of Christ's divinity, because of which they are called to believe in his word with absolute certitude.
In the mysterious silence of Holy Saturday, as we prepare for the Holy Vigil in which we commemorate the light of Salvation breaking through the darkness, our heart contemplates God's marvels, the magnalia Dei, culminating in the Solemnity of Easter, the center and fulcrum of the Christian people's life.
From the General Audience of Pope John Paul II on April 7, 1993
THE TEACHINGS OF POPE JOHN PAUL II (CD-ROM), Copyright © 1998 Harmony Media Inc.
Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life
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