A culmination of the whole liturgical calendar, the Triduum is a three-day observance of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that begins with Holy Thursday, continues on Good Friday, and concludes with the Resurrection of the Lord.
The Triduum brings us to the Last Supper, makes us pray with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, allows us to walk the steps of the Stations of the Cross, and brings us to the tomb on Easter Sunday morning.
Every single Mass, we hear the words “on the night he was betrayed.” That night was Holy Thursday, and it is one of the most important nights in all of history. Holy Thursday is the commemoration of the Last Supper of Jesus Christ, when he established the sacrament of Holy Communion prior to his arrest and crucifixion. The holy day falls on the Thursday before Easter and is part of Holy Week.
One of the most compelling rituals performed during Holy Thursday Mass is the Washing of the Feet. At the Last Supper, Jesus washed the feet of his apostles in the supreme act of humble servitude. While this ritual plays out differently throughout the Church on Holy Thursday, the message is steadfast—just as Jesus has been a servant, we need to go and be servants to the entire world.
During Good Friday, we remember the Passion and Death of our Lord and when the crucifixion Jesus Christ occured. A part of this commemoration is the Veneration of the Cross. While it may seem strange to show reverence to the very instrument used to crucify Jesus, it is through the Cross that the glory of the resurrection emerges.
The events of Good Friday are commemorated in the Stations of the Cross, a 14-step devotion often performed by Catholics during Lent and especially on Good Friday. Good Friday is a day of fasting within the Church. Traditionally, there is no Mass and no celebration of the Eucharist on Good Friday. Church bells are silent. Altars are left bare.
The celebration of the Easter Vigil tells the whole story of our salvation, from creation to resurrection and beyond. Holy Saturday is the day in the Christian liturgical calendar that celebrates the 40-hour-long vigil that the followers of Jesus Christ held after his death and burial on Good Friday and before his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Holy Saturday is the last day of Lent and of Holy Week, and the third day of the Easter Triduum.
Throughout the Triduum, we experience the highs and lows in our faith, ending with the ultimate high of the resurrection. While the Vigil marks the end of the paschal fast, the end of the celebration of Holy Week, and the end of repentance and conversion for which Lent prepared the community, it is much more a beginning. It is the beginning of a new season of grace and a time of joy and thanksgiving, for Easter is not one day or one solemnity—it is a fifty day celebration.