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The Triduum

As I write this we are fast approaching the halfway point of Lent.  What is Lent?

"Early Christians observed "a season of penitence and fasting" in preparation for the Paschal feast, or Pascha (BCP, pp. 264-265). The season now known as Lent (from an Old English word meaning "spring," the time of lengthening days) has a long history. Originally, in places where Pascha was celebrated on a Sunday, the Paschal feast followed a fast of up to two days. In the third century this fast was lengthened to six days. Eventually this fast became attached to, or overlapped, another fast of forty days, in imitation of Christ's fasting in the wilderness. The forty-day fast was especially important for converts to the faith who were preparing for baptism, and for those guilty of notorious sins who were being restored to the Christian assembly. In the western church the forty days of Lent extend from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, omitting Sundays. The last three days of Lent are the sacred Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. Today Lent has reacquired its significance as the final preparation of adult candidates for baptism. Joining with them, all Christians are invited "to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word" (BCP, p. 265).1"  Baptisms are unusual during Lent, although those wishing to be baptized are being prepared for that sacrament during those 40 days.  This seems especially true in the Orthodox church.

We hear about Lent quite a bit, so this month I wanted to move on from the period of Lent, to the ending of Lent - most specifically to the last three days of Holy Week prior to Easter - Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and The Great Vigil - the Triduum.  The Triduum is described as "The three holy days, or Triduum, of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday are at the heart of the Holy Week observance.  Holy Week ends at sundown on the Saturday before Easter, or with the celebration of the Easter Vigil."I have heard the Triduum described as one service, split up into three days. 

Maundy Thursday (29 March) observes the night on which Jesus was betrayed.  The rituals often observed include washing of parish member's feet after the gospel and homily.  Consecration of bread and wine may occur for administration of Holy Eucharist on Good Friday.  Following the Eucharist, the altar is stripped and all decorative banners and linens are removed from the nave.3

Good Friday (30 March) commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus.  Although we hear the Passion Gospel from Mark on Palm Sunday, Good Friday presents us with the account of the Passion from John.  Solemn collects (which date from ancient Rome) are read.  Some fast or perform special acts of discipline and self-denial.4  Many parishes present the Stations of the Cross prior to this service. 

The Easter Vigil (31 March) concludes the Triduum.  This liturgy is the first (some would argue the primary) celebration of Easter and consists four parts:

  1. Service of Light, when the new fire is lit, the Paschal Candle is lit from the new fire, and the Exsultet is read or sung.
  2. Service of Lessons, where Hebrew scriptures are read, with psalms, canticles and prayers mixed in.
  3. Christian initiation, including baptisms and Renewal of Baptismal Vows.
  4. The Eucharist.

The Easter Vigil links the meaning of Jesus’ death and rise to the understanding of Baptism.5

For those who have never attended the Triduum, I would encourage you to do so.  Attending all three services has always left me with feelings of the awe and wonder of the death and resurrection of our Savior.

References:

  1. https://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/glossary/lent
  2. http://archive.episcopalchurch.org/109399_14524_ENG_HTM.htm
  3. https://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/glossary/maundy-thursday
  4. https://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/glossary/good-friday
  5. https://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/glossary/easter-vigil

 

This month's Blog/Refelection was provided by Bryan Irvine

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