Triduum events usher in Church’s season of Easter

March 20, 2016

HOUSTON — This week is the summit of the Liturgical Year — the Easter Triduum. Across the world, from St. Peter’s Basilica to churches here in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, The Triduum begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday and ends with evening prayer on Easter Sunday. 

On Holy Thursday, the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is held in the evening. This Mass commemorates the institution of the Eucharist, the institution of the priesthood and Christ’s command to love one another.

Holy Thursday is sometimes called Maundy Thursday from the Lain word mandatum, or “mandate.” It comes from the Latin text of the gospel of John — “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos. (A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another as I have loved you.)”

During the Mass, the priest performs the washing of feet. The washing of the feet represents the service and charity of Christ, who came “not to be served, but to serve.” The rite is optional, and is not performed in every parish.

At the end of Mass, the Blessed Sacrament, accompanied by lighted candles and incense, is carried through the church to the place of reservation, to the singing of the hymn “Pange lingua” or some other eucharistic song. The faithful are encouraged to spend time in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.

After Mass, the altar is stripped of all linens and candles. Many churches will also cover any crosses in the church with a red or purple veil.
On Good Friday, the Church does not celebrate Mass. The Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, which includes a Liturgy of the Word, veneration of the cross and a Communion service using hosts already consecrated. Veneration of the cross can take many forms, often based around the size of the cross used and number of people present. It often involves genuflecting, kissing the cross, or some other customary sign of veneration.
On Holy Saturday, the Church is at the Lord’s tomb, meditating on His passion and death, and on His descent into hell and awaiting His resurrection. Fasting is encouraged on Holy Saturday, though it is not required.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Jesus “descended into hell” following His death on the cross “to free the just who had gone before Him… This is the last phase of Jesus’ messianic mission, a phase which is condensed in time but vast in its real significance: the spread of Christ’s redemptive work to all men of all times and all places, for all who are saved have been made sharers in the redemption.”
There is no Mass celebrated on Holy Saturday during the day.

The Easter Vigil takes place after nightfall on Saturday evening. The vigil recognizes our waiting for the coming of the Lord on Easter Sunday.
The Easter Vigil consists of the four parts. The service begins outside the church with the service of light, in which the paschal candle is prepared and blessed. 

The procession into the darkened church is led by the paschal candle and the light is passed to candles that are held by the people. 
By this candlelight, the deacon or priest makes the Easter Proclamation which tells, by means of a great poetic text, the whole Easter mystery placed in the context of the economy of salvation.

The readings from Sacred Scripture constitute the second part of the Vigil. 

They give an account of the outstanding deeds of the history of salvation, which the faithful are helped to meditate calmly upon by the singing of the responsorial psalm, by a silent pause and by the celebrant’s prayer. The Liturgy provides several readings chosen from the Old Testament. After these readings, the “Gloria” is sung, bells are rung and the lights inside the church are turned on. After this, two readings from the New Testament, namely an epistle and the Gospel, are proclaimed.

Thus the Church, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets” explains Christ’s Paschal Mystery.

The third part of the Vigil is the baptismal Liturgy. The litany of saints is sung and the baptismal water is blessed. The faithful present will renew the baptismal vows. 

At this point, candidates and catechumens who have been prepared through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) will receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion. 

More than 2,000 candidates and catechumens will be receiving the Sacraments this Easter in the Archdiocese.

The fourth part of the celebration is the Liturgy of the Eucharist. In receiving the body and blood of Christ, the fullness of the Easter Sacrifice is realized with the commemoration of the Sacrifice of the Cross and the presence of the risen Christ, the completion of Christian initiation, and the foretaste of the eternal feast.

Mass on Easter Sunday celebrates the resurrection of Jesus and His victory over death. The Mass includes a sprinkling with the water blessed at the Easter Vigil. 

The paschal candle will also be lit and visible at the front of the Church, signifying Christ as the light of the world.