Dean Letter: Triduum

Hello St. Paul’s.

Today we enter into the Great Three Days, also known as The Paschal Triduum: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and the Great Vigil of Easter, on Easter Eve. Each day’s observance is an integral part of one long service stretched out over three days. Our liturgy will invite us to experience the climactic moments of God’s love story with humanity. Those who make a commitment to attend the entire Triduum, even virtually, will find their Easter joy enhanced and their faith deepened.

Today is Maundy Thursday. “Maundy” is an old English corruption of the Latin term “mandatum”, meaning commandment. Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment on the night before he died: to love one another as he loved them. This is the commandment which we particularly focus on when we celebrate Maundy Thursday. Our evening service, largely rebroadcast from our archive, is primarily a celebration of the Eucharist, commemorating the first Eucharist when Jesus broke the bread, shared the wine, and said, “Do this in remembrance of me”.

We also observe the Passover of God’s people from slavery to freedom, as we hear the Exodus account, hearing it through the lens of our Christian understanding of Jesus as the Passover Lamb of God; and we re-enact the loving gift Jesus offered his friends when he washed their feet, as we offer the same humble service to one another. I’m grateful to the Rev Canon Anthony Guillen, Canon to the Presiding Bishop for Hispanic-Latino ministries, for sharing a bilingual homily with us tonight.

The heart of the Good Friday observance tomorrow is from noon to 3 pm, the hours when Jesus hung upon the Cross. This year we offer the Stations of the Cross, with images from our own Stations in the Cathedral, and the Passion according to St. John, sung by some of our choir members. The service will be available starting at noon.

On the night of Holy Saturday, the night before Easter, the people of God gather in the silence and darkness of the tomb. They light a flame, renewing the fire that is the source of life. They bless the new fire in the name of Christ, and the Paschal candle is lit and consecrated. The Candle leads the way into the church, a somber procession punctuated by a repeated chant: “The light of Christ! Thanks be to God!”

Once the people are seated in the sacred space, the light begins to spread, candle to candle, hand to hand, as a cantor chants the ancient Exsultet hymn and the light of Christ begins to drive away the darkness of death. The people hear the great stories of Scripture: creation, flood, Exodus, promise, sacrifice, renewal; a summary of the whole great saga of our salvation.

Christians are baptized in the light of the Paschal Candle. Easter is proclaimed: “Alleluia. Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!” The Gospel of resurrection is shared and the Eucharist celebrated. We reclaim the light and reaffirm the victory of Christ over death and the grave.

Our liturgy this year is a compilation of archive video, recently recorded segments, and a special Vigil video from our diocesan youth. We give thanks for those who came forward this year to be baptized, confirmed, received, and reaffirmed by our Bishop.

On Easter Sunday we will celebrate the resurrection with several online services and a sermon from our Bishop in both English and Spanish. God willing, this will be the last Easter when we cannot gather in person.

I hope this Triduum our liturgies will lead you deep into the mystery of God’s love.

Your sister in Christ,


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