Turning point in our Lent journey: The Easter Triduum
It is important for Christians to know the meaning of the Easter Triduum and how and when we began to live it.
The word Triduum comes from the Latin triduum, of three and duum, derived from dies, “day”, which literally means “space of three days”. The expression Easter Triduum applied to the annual celebrations of the Passion and Resurrection is relatively recent, since it does not go back beyond the thirties in the 20th century; but already at the end of the fourth century, Saint Ambrose spoke of a Triduum Sacrum to refer to the three days of the stages of Christ Paschal mystery: et passus est, et quievit et resurrexit.
The Easter Triduum is the three Holy days (Thursday, Friday and Saturday) when the Church commemorates the Mystery of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. The Son of God, by becoming man out of obedience to the Father, becoming in everything similar to us, except in sin (cf. Hb 4, 15), accepted to fulfill His will to the full, to confront passion for us and the cross, to make us participants in His resurrection, so that in Him and through Him we can live forever in consolation and peace.
Therefore, it is important that we embrace this Mystery of Salvation to intensely participate in the Easter Triduum, the culmination of the whole liturgical year and a moment of special grace for every Christian. We will live Thursday, Friday and Holy Saturday as strong moments that allow us to get deeper into the Great Mystery of our faith: the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Everything, in these three days, speaks of mercy, because it makes real how far God’s love can go. We will listen to the narration of the last days of Jesus’s life. The Mystery that we adore this Easter is a great love story that knows no obstacles. The Easter Triduum is a memorial to a love drama that gives us absolute certainty that we will never be abandoned in the trials of life.
The evening Mass in Cena Domini opens the Easter Triduum. The Church in Jerusalem already knew, in the 4th century, a Eucharistic celebration commemorating the Last Supper, and the institution of the sacrament of the sacrifice of the Cross:
At first this celebration took place on Golgotha, in the Martyrion basilica at the foot of the Cross, and not in the Upper Room; fact that confirms the intimate relationship between the Eucharist is a celebration and the sacrifice of the Cross.
Pope Francis Reflection
On Holy Thursday, Jesus institutes the Eucharist, anticipating at Easter his sacrifice on Golgotha. To make the disciples understand the Love that moves Him, he washes their feet, offering once again in first-person an example of how they themselves should act. The Eucharist is love that turns into service.,
Good Friday commemorates the Lord’s Passion and Death. Two documents of venerable antiquity (Saint Hipólito: Traditio Apostólica and the Didaskalia Apostolorum, both from the 3rd century) testify as common practice among Christians the Great Fast of Friday and Saturday before the Easter Vigil.
However, we will have to wait until the end of the 4th century AD. to find, in Jerusalem, the first liturgical celebrations of the Lord’s Passion: it was a day dedicated entirely to itinerant prayer; the faithful came from the Cenacle (where the flagellation column was venerated) to Golgotha, where the bishop presented the Wooden Cross. During the stations prophecies and gospels of the Passion were read, psalms were sung, and prayers were recited.
The oldest testimonies of a Good Friday liturgy in Rome comes from the 7th century. They manifest two different traditions, and they have come down to us through the Gelasian Sacramentary (presbyteral office with veneration of the cross, liturgy of the word and communion with those pre-sanctified) and the Gregorian Sacramentary (papal liturgy, limited to biblical readings and universal prayer).
Reflection of Pope Francis
Good Friday is the culminating moment of love. The death of Jesus, who on the cross abandons himself to the Father to offer salvation to the entire world, expresses the love given to the end, to the end without end. A love that seeks to embrace everyone, none excluded. A love that extends to all times and to every place: an inexhaustible source of salvation to which each one of us, sinners, can access. If God has shown us His supreme love in the death of Jesus, then we too, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, can and should love one another.
In the first centuries of the Church history, Holy Saturday was characterized as a day of absolute fasting, prior to the celebration of the Easter holidays. But from the sixteenth century, with the anticipation of the Vigil on Saturday morning, the liturgical meaning of the day was completely obscured until the successive reforms of our century have given it its original meaning. Holy Saturday should be for the faithful a day of intense prayer, accompanying Jesus in the silence of the grave.
Reflection of Pope Francis
Holy Saturday is the day of God’s silence. It must be a day of silence, and we must do everything to make it a day of silence, as it had been at that time: the day of God’s silence. Jesus placed in the grave shares with all humanity the drama of death. It is a silence that speaks and expresses love in solidarity with the always abandoned, that the Son of God achieves by filling the void that only God, our Father’s Infinite Mercy can fill. God is silent, but for love. On this day love – that silent love – becomes life expectancy in the resurrection. Let us think, on Holy Saturday: it will do us good to think of the silence of the Virgin, “the believer”, who silently awaited the Resurrection. The Virgin should be the icon, for us, of that Holy Saturday. Think a lot about how the Virgin lived that Holy Saturday; on hold. It is the love that does not doubt, but that waits in the word of the Lord, so that it becomes evident and radiant in Easter.
The liturgical celebration of the Lord’s Passover is found at the very origins of the Christian worship. From the apostolic generation, Christians commemorated the Resurrection of Christ weekly through the Sunday Eucharistic assembly.
In addition, already in the 2nd century the Church celebrates a specific feast as a current memory of the Passover of Christ, although the different traditions underline one or another paschal content: Passover-Passion (it was celebrated on the 14th of Nisan, according to the Jewish lunar calendar, and emphasized the historical fact of the Cross) and Easter-Glorification, which, privileging the Lord’s Resurrection, was celebrated on the Sunday after Nisan 14, the day of Christ’s Resurrection. This last practice was imposed in the Church from the beginning of the 3rd century.
Sources: Aciprensa.com / w2.vatican.va / Catholic.net