The Triduum (pronounced Trid-u-um) consists of the final sacred days of Lent: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. But rather than three days, it is really one experience. It’s the experience of the Lord Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. The experience begins on Holy Thursday evening with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, during which the community reenacts the “Washing of the Feet.” Twelve parishioners come forward, after the homily, and the presider, imitating the narrative in John’s Gospel describing Jesus’ action, removes his outer garment, ties a towel around his waist, kneels in front of each parishioner, pours water over each parishioner’s foot, dries his or her foot with a towel and then kisses the foot. It’s a gesture which sums up the Lord Jesus’ life of self-giving. “I have given you an example,” he says, “what I have done you also must do.” This year because of the Covid 19 pandemic, the washing of the feet is not celebrated. Following the liturgy of Holy Thursday, the Eucharist is carried in solemn procession to its place of reservation and the faithful are encouraged to spend some moments in silent prayer. The Sacred Triduum of remembrance has begun! It is a bittersweet moment.
And then on Good Friday, at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon, the community gathers in silence to celebrate the passion and death of Jesus. This is a quiet, somber, and reflective time. Central to the liturgy is the proclamation of the Passion, the veneration of the cross, and the reception of the Eucharist consecrated the previous day, Holy Thursday. Again, because of the pandemic only the celebrant will reverence the cross. Following this, the community disperses again. It reassembles on the night of Saturday to vigil its way to Easter. Scriptures, fire, water, Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist make it a truly grand night. The liturgy itself calls it the “night of nights.” Thus, what we began on Thursday evening has been brought to fulfillment.
In real life, suffering, death, and resurrection are also one experience. They usually cover a span of days or maybe even several years. But they really are one experience. We do well to understand them as such. Begin to view and celebrate the Triduum as one day. It will help you live suffering, death, and resurrection in life much better . . . spiritually and emotionally.
David J. McBriar, O.F.M.