The Easter Triduum is a three day celebration of ONE great event. These three days consist of the Last Supper of Christ, the Crucifixion, Easter Vigil and Resurrection. The Triduum is a complex series of rites with many images and layers of meaning. The purpose of these three days is to fast, pray and vigil. The focus is not on the history or reenactment, but rather on the mystery of these events. Holy Thursday ends the Lenten fast at dusk and begins the Easter fast. The fasting on Good Friday and Holy Saturday is the first purpose of these days and is linked with the Scripture meditation of Mark 2:18-20.
Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were accustomed to fast. People came to Jesus with the objection,“Why do John’s disciples and those of the Pharisees fast while yours do not?” Jesus replied,“How can the guests at a wedding fast as long as the groom is still among them? So long as the groom stays with them, they cannot fast. The day will come, however, when the groom will be taken away from them; on that day they will fast.”
With the Bridegroom taken there is a fast, with the intense hope of Christ’s return-His resurrection. However, as we wait, we contemplate the cross, our cross, and we commune with the sufferings of Jesus in the present day sufferings of the Body of Christ throughout our world.
The second purpose of the Triduum is for prayer and keeping vigil. Keeping vigil is a rich part of our tradition. In the early Christian centuries, it meant lighting the lamps at sundown, watching prayerfully through the night, and celebrating the Eucharist just before sunrise.
During the course of this night the Easter mystery was proclaimed in the Exsultet at the Easter Vigil.
“Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God’s throne Jesus Christ, our King is risen
Sound the trumpet of salvation.”
The Vigil begins, however on Holy Thursday with the first watch, and then we watch through the night at the altar of repose. The following day, Good Friday is the second watch, with the third day being the Easter Vigil that spills over into Easter Sunday.
These events have shaped our whole belief system. They happened in a time of history that can’t be reenacted, but are daily lived by anyone who is human, who has known betrayal, suffering, grace and new life-the cross and resurrection.