Why do we worship on Thursday, Friday and Saturday?
The Triduum … What is it and why you should be present?
Triduum is a Latin word meaning three days. Three days you say? - I count four! True, but the days are counted from sundown to sundown. So the days do not begin until sundown on Thursday and conclude with sundown on Sunday - giving us three days. The three services are really all one, just carried out over these days. This is emphasized by the fact that there is no dismissal on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday. In that way the church emphasizes the importance of being present for all of these liturgies. A play with three acts - there are just longer intermissions. We know about these liturgies because in the 4th century a Spanish pilgrim named Egeria recorded in her journals her experiences in Jerusalem of what we refer to as Holy Week.
The name comes from the Latin word, mandatum, which refers to the new commandment that Christ gives to the disciples in John 13:34 - “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” This text was appointed in the prayer book to be sung as an antiphon during the footwashing, and came to be called “the Maundy” in medieval England. The proper liturgy for this day celebrates the events of the Last Supper - which includes the footwashing and the institution of the Eucharist. The liturgy concludes with the stripping of the altar. The ornaments of the sanctuary are removed leaving it bare and empty for Good Friday.
The observance of the Friday before Easter as a commemoration of the crucifixion has its roots in 4th century Jerusalem. Before that time, Easter was a unitive celebration of the passion and resurrection. Our Good Friday Liturgy includes prayers invited by the deacon for the Church and the World, and the ancient Solemn Collects which gather all our prayers in one. Tonight we also use a simple version of the Stations of the Cross, and chants from the Taizé Christian community in France. The liturgy ends with a simple prayer and silence.
The Great Vigil of Easter
Probably the most dramatic liturgy in our Book of Common Prayer, this liturgy includes fire, story, water and the first Eucharist of Easter. Traditionally the rite took the entire night - after sundown and ending at sunrise - ours will take much less time. We bring outside and strike flint and steel to make our fire. Then we hear stories of salvation and move into the parish hall. Finally we enter the church in its Easter glory and sing the first Alleluias and renew our baptisms with the sprinkling of water and share bread and wine around the altar.