Holy Week and the Triduum

4 months ago  •  By  •  0 Comments

by Clancy Nixon

Later in this article, I explain more of what Holy Week is all about. First, an invitation.

I pray that you and your family will participate in this remarkable drama of our redemption and eternal life by worshiping at as many Holy Week services as you can, whether in-person or online. Please invite a neighbor or two to attend or watch on Good Friday and/or Easter If you come in person, I encourage you to pick your guests up and drive them to church with you. 

If you need consecrated bread or juice for your personal use, please let us know, and we’ll do our best to get it to you. 

Praise God, more of us are returning to attendance in person. If you plan to attend in person, please do register ahead of time, by emailing Monica Whitmer at Monica@HolySpiritLeesburg.org, or calling her at 703-726-0777.   I hope to see you here!

What is “Holy Week,” anyway? Here is a primer. 

It’s the week that starts on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday. Christians consider it the holiest part of the year, and even the secular culture around us stops and takes notice. During this week every year, the Church worldwide remembers, celebrates and meditates on the last week of Jesus’ life, and his resurrection from the dead! 

It begins with Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, which we just celebrated. The focus is in the Kingship of Jesus. Many churches put on a Passion Play on Palm Sunday, as we at CHS have done in years past. In such plays, the church typically joins in the chant, “We have no king but Caesar. Crucify him!” It’s a powerful reminder of our own culpability before a holy God. 

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Holy Week are called Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, and Holy Wednesday. Because we don’t know from the Scriptures exactly what Jesus did on those days after his triumphal entry, we don’t have special church services observing them, though there are collects in the Prayer Book that have been written for them. 

Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday are together called “The Great Triduum,” or the great three days. But this seems like 4 days, not 3, right? Well, the church counts these days beginning on the evening of Thursday, like Jews count their days. So, the Great Triduum is the 3 days that begin with Maundy Thursday celebration on Thursday evening, through Easter Sunday evening. 

The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin mandamus, which means obligation. The early church considered this observance of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, the distribution of alms to the poor, and imitating Jesus’ foot-washing, to be a holy obligation. Personally, I find the experience of washing the feet of others to be extremely humbling, and that is why it is so spiritually valuable to me. This year, CHS will do Maundy Thursday entirely online, and not in the Nave; so we encourage you to B.Y.O.B. – Bring out Your Own Basin in your homes! 

On Good Friday, we observe the crucifixion of our Lord, his self-substitutionary sacrifice for us and our sins. Together, we consider the cost he paid for our atonement – our being made one with God again. Some churches, like our mother church, Truro in Fairfax, observe the three hours he hung on the Cross, from noon to 3:00, for special worship and devotion. At CHS, we will meet in person at 7PM as usual, with an online option, as is our new custom. We will meditate on the Cross, and literally nail our sins on index cards to a wooden cross. 

On Holy Saturday, we typically observe an Easter Vigil in the late evening, but because of the pandemic, we will not observe it this year. The Great Vigil opens in darkness and candlelight, as we read many Old Testament Passages about the coming of the messiah. It is our first celebration of Easter, and ends in light and joy. 

On Easter Sunday, you all know that we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. We’ll have 2 services, one at 9AM and one at 11AM, along with online options.  We bring our own bells and we ring them on every joyous Alleluia! An egg hunt for the children will start at 10:30, after gathering at 10:15 in the vestibule or Narthex.

Of all our holy days, Easter is the holiest – it is the feast of feasts for Christians. We are Easter people – people of hope, of new life, of new beginnings. Because Christ is raised, so shall we be raised. Don’t let the pandemic keep you from worshiping with us in Holy Week, whether in person or online.+