As we enter Holy Week, our thoughts are beginning to turn toward the most holy time in our church calendar. In a couple of short days, we will gather for the great liturgies of the Triduum (tri-duum: literally, three days). Imagined as one event, this is a church service that takes us three days to complete!
First, on Maundy Thursday, Jesus gives us a new command inciting us to love one another as he has loved us. On this day, in addition to breaking bread and sharing the cup as Jesus commands us, we have the opportunity to mimic Jesus’ actions, humbling ourselves through the act of ritual footwashing. The word maundy comes from the Latin mandatum, which reminds us of the word mandate. The commands of this day are far-reaching and encapsulate all of Jesus’ teaching. We end the day by stripping the altar, a powerful reminder of how Jesus was stripped of his power and glory.
Next, on Good Friday, we gather as a community to remind each other that, although Jesus suffered and died, it is the cross that has created our salvation. Central to this day’s worship are the chanting of the passion according to John and a series of prayers in which we recall God’s great mercy upon all creation. Rather than mourn the death of our Savior this day, we call the day Good and we venerate the cross as the central means for our salvation.
Finally, at the Great Vigil of Easter, we proclaim that this is the night on which Jesus accomplishes salvation. We light a fire, tell the greatest-hits stories of salvation from the Old Testament, we baptize new believers, our Alleluias are restored, we share communion, and we are sent into the world to tell this amazing story.
Throughout all of Triduum, we sing.
We sing psalms and hymns about God’s saving grace enacted in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We proclaim the resurrection both as having already happened and as a continual act within our lives as individuals and in community. What a story!