The conclusion of Holy Week ends with the “Liturgy of all Liturgies,” commonly known as the “Sacred Triduum.” This liturgical event is so important, it spans three days!
It is a beautiful liturgy that is meant to draw us even closer to the great Paschal mystery of Christ’s Passion, death and resurrection.
Below is Benedict XVI’s helpful summary of each day, which he presented in a Wednesday audience in 2007.
In the evening, entering the Easter Triduum, the Christian community relives what happened at the Last Supper in the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. In the Upper Room, the Redeemer wanted to anticipate the sacrifice of his life in the Sacrament of the bread and wine changed into his Body and Blood: he anticipated his death, he freely gave his life, he offered the definitive gift of himself to humanity.
With the washing of the feet, the gesture with which, having loved his own, he loved them to the end is repeated (cf. Jn 13:1), and he bequeathed this act of humility to his disciples as their “badge”: love unto death.
After the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the liturgy invites the faithful to pause in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, reliving Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane. And we see that the disciples fell asleep, leaving their Lord on his own.
Good Friday, which commemorates the events between Christ’s condemnation to death and his Crucifixion, is a day of penance, fasting and prayer, of participation in the Lord’s Passion. At the prescribed hour, the Christian Assembly, with the help of the Word of God and liturgical actions, renews the history of human infidelity to the divine plan, which was nonetheless brought about exactly in this way; and it listens once again to the moving narrative of the Lord’s sorrowful Passion.
The Assembly then addresses to the Heavenly Father a long “prayer of the faithful” which embraces all the needs of the Church and of the world.
Subsequently, the community adores the Cross and receives the Eucharist, consuming the sacred species reserved from the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on the previous day. In commenting on Good Friday, St. John Chrysostom observes: “First, the Cross stood for contempt, but today it is something venerable; before it was the symbol of condemnation, today it is the hope of salvation. It has truly become a source of infinite good; it has freed us from error, it has dispelled our shadows, it has reconciled us with God, it has transformed us from being enemies of God to being members of his family, from being strangers to being his neighbours: this Cross is the destruction of enmity, the source of peace, the casket of our treasure” (cf. De Cruce et Latrone I, 1, 4).
Holy Saturday is the day when the liturgy is hushed, the day of great silence, and Christians are invited to preserve interior recollection, often difficult to encourage in our day, in order to be better prepared for the Easter Vigil.
Finally, during the Easter Vigil the veil of sorrow which shrouds the Church because of the death of the Lord will be torn by the victorious cry: Christ is risen and has defeated death for ever! We will then truly be able to understand the mystery of the Cross, “since God also creates wonders even in the impossible,” an ancient writer says, “so that we may know that he alone can do what he wills. From his death comes our life, from his wounds our healing, from his fall our resurrection, from his descent our uplifting” (Anonymous, Quartodecimano).