What Is the Easter Triduum?

The Significance of the Three Days Leading up to Easter

Cross in front of stained glass in a church

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For Roman Catholic Christians as well as many Protestant denominations, the Easter Triduum (sometimes also referred to as the Paschal Triduum or simply, the Triduum) is the proper name for the three-day season that concludes Lent and introduces Easter. Technically speaking, a triduum refers simply to any three-day period of prayer. Triduum comes from Latin meaning "three days." 

Easter Triduum

The three 24-hour periods of the triduum include the major feasts for all four days at the heart of the Easter celebration: the evening feast of Holy Thursday (also called Maundy Thursday), Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. The Easter Triduum memorializes the suffering, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In Anglican and Protestant denominations, like the Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches, the Easter Triduum is not considered a separate season, but rather one that includes portions of Lent and the Easter festival. For Roman Catholics since 1955, the Easter Triduum is formally considered a separate season. 

Holy Thursday

Starting with the Mass of the Lord's Supper on the evening of Holy Thursday, continuing through the Good Friday service and Holy Saturday, and concluding with vespers (evening prayer) on Easter Sunday, the Easter Triduum marks the most significant events of Holy Week (also known as Passiontide).

On Holy Thursday, the Triduum begins for Catholics with the evening Mass of the Lord's Supper, during which bells are rung and the organ played. The bells and organ will then remain silent until the Easter Vigil Mass. The Mass of the Lord's Supper includes a ritual washing of feet in most Catholic congregations. The altars are stripped of ornamentation, leaving only the cross and candlesticks.

For Protestant denominations that celebrate the Triduum, it begins with a simple evening worship service on Holy Thursday. 

Good Friday

For Catholics and many Protestants, the Good Friday church ceremony is marked by a ritual unveiling of the main cross near the altar. This is the day that marks the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Catholic worship service does not include Communion on this day. Catholics may ritually kiss the feet of the Jesus figure upon the cross; for some Protestants, a similar devotion has them simply touching the cross. 

Holy Saturday

After nightfall on Holy Saturday, Catholics hold an Easter vigil service, which represents the faithful awaiting the resurrection of Jesus Christ after his burial. In some congregations, this vigil service is held before dawn on Easter Sunday. This service includes a ceremony of light and darkness, in which a paschal candle is lit to represent the resurrection of Christ; members of the congregation form a solemn procession to the altar.

The Easter Vigil is considered the pinnacle of the Easter Triduum, especially for Catholics, and is usually celebrated with a devotion equal to that bestowed on Easter itself. 

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday marks the end of the Triduum and the beginning of the seven-week Easter season that will end with Pentecost Sunday. Easter Sunday church services for Catholics as well as Protestants is a joyous celebration of resurrection and rebirth of Jesus and mankind. Popular Easter symbolism includes many images of rebirth as found in the world of nature and from religious traditions through history, including fragrant lilies, newborn animals, and spring plant growth. 

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Richert, Scott P. "What Is the Easter Triduum?" Learn Religions, Aug. 25, 2020, learnreligions.com/what-is-the-easter-triduum-541518. Richert, Scott P. (2020, August 25). What Is the Easter Triduum? Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-the-easter-triduum-541518 Richert, Scott P. "What Is the Easter Triduum?" Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/what-is-the-easter-triduum-541518 (accessed February 8, 2023).