The Triduum

drawings: bread and a chalice; Jesus' crucified palm; a resurrected Christ emerging from the tomb

The Paschal Triduum (Paschal from the Hebrew פֶּסַח, transliterated as “Pesach,” meaning “Passover,” and triduum from the Latin for “three days”) refers to the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday before Easter Sunday. They are among the holiest days of the year for Christians and observed with great sincerity and preparation at the Church of the Ascension.

Maundy Thursday, April 13, 7 p.m.

“Maundy” is a Middle English word, after the Anglo-French word “mandet,” for the mandate from Jesus to his disciples on the night before he was captured and killed (John 13:34): “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” To demonstrate his love and service to those who followed him, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. (If you listen closely to the Gospel lesson on this evening, you will hear Jesus gently teasing St. Peter about his hygiene!) This was on the night now known as the Last Supper, which forms the basis for our communion service, the Eucharistic Feast. To symbolize Christ’s call to service, it is traditional for feet to be washed during this service. To commemorate his institution of the Eucharist, bread and wine will be consecrated as his Body and Blood. Then, in preparation for our call to the cross, the chancel and sanctuary area around the altar will be stripped of decoration, containers, and sources of light, and we will leave the service in quietness and darkness.

Good Friday, April 14, Noon

The service this day is one of the most affecting of the year — perhaps, for Episcopalians, because it is observed in sharp contrast to the color and festivity marking our usual, instinctive response to the Good News of God’s grace. With clergy and choir more plainly attired, the liturgy’s lamentations, and the somber retelling of the Passion (from the Latin passio or passionem, for “suffering”) of Christ, the starkness of the service is the best reminder that, as is often said by preachers, “there is no Easter apart from Good Friday.” We will take Communion, but it will be from the sacraments consecrated the evening before and held in reserve (with an all-night vigil by prayerful watchers) in the chapel for this purpose.

And then, fear and trembling perhaps yielding to hope and expectation, we wait.

Holy Saturday: The Great Vigil of Easter, April 15, 8 p.m.

At dusk on the third day, we gather in darkness to kindle new fire, which we then spread among ourselves as candlelight. We remind ourselves of the record of God’s saving deeds in history, how he saved his people in ages past, including Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea. Then with joyful exuberance, we celebrate the discovery of an empty tomb with the first Eucharist of Easter: He is risen! Alleluia!


We invite you to join us for any and all of these services. And, of course, on Easter Sunday, we will celebrate with a joyful “said” Eucharist at 9 a.m.; the full festal Eucharist — with full choir, incense, lilies, and probably several women sporting fine millinery — at 11 a.m., followed by an Easter Egg Hunt for the children and an Easter Brunch for everyone; and then a more meditative, but no less joyful, service of worship and sacrament at 7 p.m.