We are about to leave Lent and enter the liturgical season known as “Triduum.”
What is this season, and why is it does the Church say that it is “the culmination of the entire liturgical year”?
Here are 6 things you need to know.
1. What does “Triduum” mean?
It comes from Latin roots that mean, essentially, “the three days” or “period of three days” (tri- = three, -dies = days).
Today it refers to the liturgical season that follows Lent and precedes the Easter season.
According to the main document governing the celebrations connected with Easter, Paschales Solemnitatis:
38. . . . This time is called “the triduum of the crucified, buried and risen”; it is also called the “Easter Triduum” because during it is celebrated the Paschal Mystery, that is, the passing of the Lord from this world to his Father.
2. When does Triduum begin and end?
According to the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar:
19. The Easter triduum begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday.
This means that Triduum thus runs from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday.
It thus includes three full days, though since the season doesn’t begin at midnight, these three days are distributed as follows:
- The last part of Holy Thursday
- Good Friday
- Holy Saturday
- The first part of Easter Sunday
3. Why is Triduum important?
According to the General Norms:
18. Christ redeemed us all and gave perfect glory to God principally through his paschal mystery: dying he destroyed our death and rising he restored our life.
Therefore the Easter triduum of the passion and resurrection of Christ is the culmination of the entire liturgical year. Thus the solemnity of Easter has the same kind of preeminence in the liturgical year that Sunday has in the week.
4. How is fasting observed in this season?
According to Paschales Solemnitatis:
39. The Easter fast is sacred on the first two days of the Triduum, during which, according to ancient tradition, the Church fasts “because the Spouse has been taken away.”
Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence; it is also recommended that Holy Saturday be so observed, in order that the Church with uplifted and welcoming heart be ready to celebrate the joys of the Sunday of the resurrection.
Fasting and abstinence are thus required on Good Friday and fasting is recommended on Holy Saturday.
(Note: These days are reckoned as beginning at midnight. Good Friday begins at 12:01 a.m. Friday, not at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper the preceding evening.)
5. What is “Tenebrae“?
Tenebrae (Latin, “shadows,” “gloom,” “darkness”) is the name formerly given to a particular service of readings done at this time of year. According to Paschales Solemnitatis:
40. It is recommended that there be a communal celebration of the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It is fitting that the bishop should celebrate the Office in the cathedral, with as far as possible the participation of the clergy and people.
This Office, formerly called “Tenebrae,” held a special place in the devotion of the faithful as they meditated upon the passion, death and burial of the Lord, while awaiting the announcement of the resurrection.
6. How to learn more?
Keep watching this space.
I’m going to be doing a special “things you need to know” series over the next few days to explain the mysteries of Triduum in greater depth.
Here are the current posts in the series:
- 10 things you need to know about Holy Thursday.
- 9 things you need to know about Good Friday.
- 12 things you need to know about Holy Saturday.
- 8 things you need to know about Easter Sunday.