An introduction to the Sacred Triduum, the "three days" of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday. These three days, in which we recall the Lord's last night with his disciples, his passion, and resurrection, are the holiest of the Christian Year.
This liturgy includes the public washing of feet by the clergy of the Church in obedience to the command "I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you." (John 13:15) The word "Maundy" refers to the Latin mandatum, referring not only to this command of the Lord to wash other's feet, but also to the New Commandment: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you , that you also love one another." (John 13:34)
The liturgy concludes in silence, the church is cleared of all furnishings, and a vigil is kept before the Blessed Sacrament in a the chapel. All are invited to keep watch through the night in one hour shifts until 8 am, following the invitation of Jesus "Could you not watch with me for one hour?" (Matthew 26:40)
Good Friday is the only day in the year that the Eucharist is not celebrated. Instead, hosts from the previous day are consumed by the faithful in a liturgy called the "mass of the pre-sanctified."
There is also no accompaniment for the music. Instead, an a cappella choir provides hymnody.
As well on this day, a simple wooden cross is brought before the people, that they may meditate upon the wood of the cross, and even venerate the wood as a token of His Passion.
The Holy Saturday liturgy is perhaps the most austere of the whole Church year. Christ sleeps in death and the whole creation groans in expectation. An ancient homily is read with the text: "Truly he goes to seek out our first parent like a lost sheep; he wishes to visit those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. He goes to free the prisoner Adam and his fellow-prisoner Eve from their pains, he who is God, and Adam's son."
The day ends with the Easter Vigil, in which a new fire is lit and the Church gathers to hear the record of God's saving deeds in total darkness and twelve readings from Holy Scripture. The Vigil is followed by the First Eucharist of Easter.
Easter is the greatest of all feasts in the Church, and having begun the celebration the previous night, the Church resounds with the song "Alleluia, Christ is Risen!"
Saint Augustine once said "We are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song!" We rejoice in Christ's triumph over sin and death, as the great collect of the Church puts it:
"O God our King, by the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ on the first day of the week, you conquered sin, put death to flight, and gave us the hope of everlasting life! Redeem all our days by this victory; forgive our sins, banish our fears, make us bold to praise you and to do your will; and steel us to wait for the consummation of your kingdom on the last great Day; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord."
On Easter morning, we welcome new members of Christ's One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church through the Sacrament of Baptism.