10 Questions about the Triduum

Worship and Prayer Officer Fiona Duque answers some questions about the Triduum below.

What is the Triduum (aka Easter Long Weekend)? 

The Paschal Mystery – aka the life, death and resurrection of Jesus – is the heart of the Church’s life. We celebrate this mystery throughout the liturgical year. The Triduum is the most solemn point in the year, shining a light on everything else. The word triduum comes from the Latin meaning ‘three days.’ The Triduum is one liturgy that has three moments and starts on the evening of Holy Thursday (this year that is the 28 March), goes through Good Friday and finishes at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. Then the celebration of Easter continues with Sunday Mass and evening prayer.

What happens on Holy Thursday? 

On Holy Thursday the faithful come together to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of the last meal that Jesus had with his disciples. Usually at this Mass the priest washes the feet of members of the community. This ritual of foot washing challenges us to live in accord with Jesus’ model of servant leadership.

What happens on Good Friday? 

Good Friday is a solemn day in the life of the Church. The faithful fast and pray in remembrance of Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. The parish church is stripped back, the altar is bare, the tabernacle (the place where the Blessed Sacrament is kept) is empty with the door ajar. There is no Mass. There is a service at 3.00pm, the hour of Jesus’ last breath at which people are invited to venerate the cross.

What happens on Holy Saturday? 

During daylight hours, Holy Saturday is a time of contemplation, reflection and where the fasting from Good Friday continues. The focus of people’s contemplation is Jesus’ death and what it means for our world today. Where does Jesus continue to die and suffer today? What is my and our stance in relation to that? But, in the evening, as soon as the sun goes down, well that’s another story. 

What happens in the evening on Holy Saturday?

As soon as the sun sets on Holy Saturday, the Easter Vigil begins. It is a celebration filled with joy and marked by noble solemnity. It has four parts: the Solemn beginning of the Vigil – when the Paschal Candle is lit - The Liturgy of the Word, The Baptismal Liturgy - during which new members are baptised - and finally the Eucharist. This liturgy is a long one but is one of the most wonderful, beautiful, and significant in the liturgical life of the Church. It celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus.

What happens on Easter Sunday?

People get Easter eggs. Well, yes, that is true, but more importantly the faithful who were unable to participate in the Triduum come together for Mass to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. The community sing joyous hymns of praise. This is the day the faithful have been waiting for all through Lent. Death has lost its sting (cf. 1 Cor 15:55) for all humanity.

Why do people abstain from meat on Good Friday? 

The discipline of abstaining and fasting strengthens people’s ability to identify and abstain from things in their life that may cause a block in their relationship with God. The emptiness of Good Friday helps Catholics to do this more earnestly. Abstinence and fasting declutters and opens people’s hearts to be ready to encounter the risen Christ and be strengthened and renewed in their relationship with God and use that strength and renewal to change the world.  

What is the difference between the Triduum and Eastertide? 

For the Church, Easter doesn’t finish when the long weekend is over. Eastertide (the Easter season) has just started. It goes for 50 days finishing with Pentecost (which means 50 days). So, whilst the secular world moves on from Easter to the next thing, the faithful continue to celebrate new life in the risen Christ. 40 days after Easter the church celebrates the Ascension of Jesus where he is taken up into heaven. We will get back to Pentecost in a 10 Questions to come…

What is the Paschal candle?

The Paschal candle is the symbol of the light of Christ blazing in the light of darkness of our world. It is a key symbol at Easter but also at other times, such as baptisms and funerals. Each year the church gets a new Paschal candle which is lit for the first time at the Easter Vigil – the first sign of the resurrection. The newly lit candle is processed into the darkened Church where the light is spread amongst the people, and this is a sign that they are to take the light of Christ out into the world.

I am not Catholic, so how can I get involved? 

There are many ways over the Triduum that you can get involved. Being open to a time of contemplation and reflection on your life can be a great start. Wishing people a happy Easter is a simple way to acknowledge the faith of Christian friends. Accept invitations to any of the liturgies within the church or any festive meals that your Christian friends may be hosting. Choose your own Triduum adventure…you never know what you might find.

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Fiona Duque Image
Fiona Duque

Fiona is the Pastoral Ministries Officer - Worship and Prayer.

Formerly, she was the Ministry Coordinator and Religious Studies Coordinator at St Bede's Catholic College, Chisholm.