What Is the Easter Triduum?

The Liturgical Season Between Lent and the Easter Season

Pope Francis Leads Chrism Mass in the Vatican Basilica
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For Roman Catholic Christians as well as many Protestant denominations, the Easter Triduum (sometimes also referred to as the Paschal Triduum) is the proper name for the three-day liturgical season that concludes Lent and introduces  the joy of the Easter season. It begins with the evening feast of Holy Thursday (also called Maundy Thursday), and it includes Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.

Its three 24-hour periods include the major feasts for all four days at the heart of the Easter celebration. The Easter Triduum memorializes the suffering, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

In Protestant denominations, the Easter Triduum is not considered a separate liturgical season, but rather one that includes portions of Lent and the Easter festival. For Catholics, though, the Easter Triduum has been formally been considered a separate season since reforms instituted in 1955. 

The Easter Triduum is often commonly referred to simply as the Triduum. Technically speaking, a triduum refers simply any three-day period of prayer, recalling the three days that Christ spent in the tomb, but in common usage, any reference to the Triduum refers to the Easter Triduum beginning on Holy Thursday and ending with Easter Sunday. 

Holy Thursday

Starting with the Mass of the Lord's Supper on the evening of Holy Thursday, continuing through the Good Friday service and Holy Saturday, and concluding with vespers (evening prayer) on Easter Sunday, the Easter Triduum marks the most significant events of Holy Week (also known as Passiontide).

On Holy Thursday, the Triduum begins for Catholics with the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, during which bells are rung and the organ played. The bells and organ will then remain silent until the Easter Vigil Mass. The Mass of the Lord's Supper includes a ritual washing of feet in most Catholic congregations.

 

For Protestant denominations that celebrate the Triduum, it begins with a simple evening worship service on Holy Thursday. 

Good Friday

For Catholics and many Protestants, the Good Friday church ceremony is marked by a ritual unveiling of the main cross near the alter, for this is the day that marks the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Catholic worship service does not include communion on this day. Catholics may ritually kiss the feet of the Jesus figure upon the cross; for some Protestants, a similar devotion has them simply touching the cross. 

Holy Saturday

After nightfall on Holy Saturday, Catholics hold an Easter Vigil service, which represents the faithful awaiting the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his burial. (In some congregations, this Vigil service is held before dawn on Easter Sunday.)  This service includes a ceremony of light and darkness, in which a paschal candle is lit to represent the resurrection of Christ; members of the congregation form a solemn procession to the alter.

The Easter Vigil is considered the pinnacle of the Easter Triduum, especially for Catholics, and is usually celebrated with a devotion equal to that bestowed on Easter itself. 

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday marks the end of the Triduum and the beginning of the seven-week Easter season that will end with Pentecost Sunday.

Easter day church services for Catholics as well as Protestants is a joyous celebration of resurrection and rebirth of Jesus and mankind. Popular Easter symbolism includes many images of rebirth as found in the world of nature and from religious traditions through history, including fragrant lilies, newborn animals, and spring plant growth.