The Great Three Days of the Church Year, the Sacred Triduum, is upon us. The Triduum begins on Thursday night, continues through Good Friday, reaches its high point at the Easter Vigil of Holy Saturday, and flows into Easter Sunday. These days form the center of the Church Year. We are asked to “save” these days, to free ourselves from all that distracts us, so that we might focus more fully on the saving acts of Jesus Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.

On Holy Thursday, the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Church commemorates Jesus’ institution of the Priesthood and the Eucharist, His Real, Substantial and Abiding Presence with us. In the liturgy, Jesus reminds us that “what I have done you must do” in the washing of the feet. Discipleship is a call to humble service, patterned after the One who came to serve, not to be served. As the liturgy ends, the Eucharist is taken to the altar of repose where the Lord calls us to “watch and pray.”

As a reminder of the seriousness and sacredness of these days, we fast from food and abstain from meat on Good Friday. Saint Paul reminds us that Jesus died for us while we were still in our transgressions. Jesus’ act of loving sacrifice on our behalf should naturally lead us to genuine sorrow for our sins and adoration of our Lord. On this day we venerate the Cross, recall His Passion, and are strengthened by Holy Communion. The Lord’s death on the Cross should lead us to self-denial, fasting and prayer. 

This stance of prayer continues into Holy Saturday as we wait in darkness awaiting the Light of Christ. Holy Saturday is the most sacred night of the Church Year, the Vigil of all Vigils. The Service of Light and Proclamation of Easter, the Liturgy of the Word, the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation and the Liturgy of the Eucharist make up the four parts of the Easter Vigil. On this night we tell the great stories of Salvation history, culminating in the Resurrection of Jesus. We renew our baptismal promises and are renewed and nourished by sharing in the Body and Blood of our Risen Lord. It truly is a beautiful night that flows into Easter Sunday, as again the Church announces, “Alleluia, He is Risen!” Easter is a celebration that will last for 50 days!

By saving these sacred days, we make them free for prayer, reflection and worship so that our hearts and minds are ready for savoring the graces God wishes to give us during the celebration of the Passover of the Lord. “We should glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, life and resurrection, through whom we are saved and delivered” (Entrance antiphon of Holy Thursday).