The Mass is the greatest prayer that can be offered, specifically because it makes present the greatest sacrifice and offering-the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord. Though these saving mysteries are made present for us at every Mass, we are particularly mindful of them during Holy Week, especially during the Sacred Triduum.
Within Holy Week, we have the Sacred Triduum. Triduum literally means three days, being derived from the Latin words tres (three) and dies (days). It begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday and ends with Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday. These three days form the highest point of the liturgical year.
In the evening of Holy Thursday, we celebrate a Mass in which we particularly commemorate the institution of the Eucharist and of the Priesthood. We recall the night in which our Lord gathered with his disciples in the upper room and, for the first time, spoke the words of power which transformed ordinary bread and wine into his precious body and blood.
Many remember that, in the Gospel of John, Jesus washes his disciples’ feet before sharing the Last Supper. Because of this, on Holy Thursday, the missal indicates: “After the Homily, where a pastoral reason suggests it, the Washing of Feet follows.” As many have heard, on January 6th of this year, Pope Francis changed this optional rite. Previously, it emphasized the way in which Christ taught his bishops, the apostles, to live lives of service. As such, only men were allowed as representatives of the Twelve Apostles. Pope Francis has asked that the rite, when it is used, now focus more on the universal nature of Christ’s gift of self. As such, he has permitted that a greater variety of people be included in the rite, not just men standing in as representatives of the apostles. In this way, Christ’s “gift of himself ’to the end’ for the salvation of the world,” is manifested as reaching out to all people, in all times, and places. Following Holy Thursday, we celebrated Good Friday.
Good Friday is sometimes called the Mass of the Presanctified, because, for communion, Christians receive Eucharist which had been consecrated the night before at the Holy Thursday Mass. Strictly speaking, Good Friday Liturgy is not a Mass, but a liturgy of the Word with distribution of Holy Communion. From ancient custom, no Mass is permitted this day. During the Good Friday Liturgy, we have the rite of the Veneration of the Cross. In this rite a crucifix is displayed and the faithful, processing forward, are invited to reverence the cross-often with a kiss. In so doing, we show our great love and affection for our Lord, who was willing to go to such lengths in order to save us. As we know, his victory was not completed in his death, but in his resurrection, which we celebrated Saturday night with the Easter Vigil.
The Easter Vigil, “‘mother of all vigils’ is the “greatest and most noble of all solemnities […] On this holy night, the Church keeps watch, celebrating the resurrection of Christ in the sacraments and awaiting his return in glory. It is the turning point of the Triduum, the Passover of the new covenant, which marks Christ’s passage from death to life. “In this, the highest of all liturgies in the life of the Church, we will enter fully into the joy of our Savior’s definitive victory over sin and death, singing out, once again, with exultant praise-Alleluia!
Praise be Jesus Christ-now and forever!