TO THE TRIDUUM
The enormous significance of Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection has always been the central focus of Christian worship. Prior to the fourth century, Easter Day itself included all three emphases, but thereafter they were distributed over three days of special observance, which Augustine called “the most holy Triduum of the crucified, buried, and risen Lord.” These days have long been understood as the climax of the Church’s year.
Since the last half of the 20th century, Lutherans have been rediscovering the richness of the ancient Triduum (pronounced TRIH-doo-um) and adapting the traditional services associated with it for use in Evangelical-Lutheran worship. In keeping with their origins, the Triduum services are closely connected with one another. We observe the Triduum as a single service that extends over the “three holy days.”
The theme of Maundy Thursday, best expressed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to
, is the novum mandatum or “new command” of Jesus that his disciples “love one another.” The institution of the Lord’s Supper sets forth the depth of Jesus’ love and gives power to the Church to live out his command. For the Triduum, Maundy Thursday marks the end of Lent proper. The service begins with the sermon and an exhortation regarding the end of Lent. This unusual arrangement allows the minister to explain the meaning of the Sacrament and the liturgical actions that are to take place so that they may proceed uninterruptedly and vividly from this evening through Good Friday to the Easter Vigil. The action of ceremonially stripping the altar prepares the chancel and the congregation for Good Friday. St. John
As the middle service of the Triduum, Good Friday is prepared for by Maundy Thursday. In turn, it leads into the Easter Vigil. The absence of a benediction the previous evening and again on Good Friday underscores the connectedness of the Triduum service. Good Friday is not a “funeral” for Jesus, but an austere celebration of the Lamb and his sacrifice. The bare altar, symbolic of Christ, is the focus along with a large, rough finished wood cross.
The Service of the Seven Words is a service that reviews the seven times in which Jesus spoke at his crucifixion. Each reading is interspersed with silence for meditation, prayers, and hymns. The Service of the Seven Words is intended as the primary Good Friday service and his historically been observed sometime during the “hours of the cross,” between noon and three o’clock. It may also be used in place of the Service of Darkness (Tenebrae) as an evening service, as is the case at Good Shepherd.
The climax of the Triduum comes in the Vigil of Easter, a service of watching and waiting which utilizes prayer, Scripture, and hymns. The Vigil is composed of four parts.
The Service of Light focuses on the Paschal Candle, the representation of the unconquered life of Christ.
II. The Service of Lessons uses Old Testament texts that foreshadowed our deliverance and rescue by Jesus.
III. The Service of Holy Baptism emphasizes our baptismal connection to the crucified and risen Christ.
IV. The Service of Holy Communion proclaims the risen Savior and our blessed reconciliation to God.
In the ancient Church, the Vigil began on Saturday and continued through to Easter Dawn. It was at dawn that the cry rang out: “Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!” We honor the spirit of the Vigil, beginning our Easter Vigil at an early hour on Easter Sunday. With the service of Easter Dawn, we conclude the Triduum. Our Festival celebration is held at our regular hour of Divine Service, at 10:00 AM.
May the Lord bless us as we observe these “three holy days,” the Triduum.