The Great Triduum Approaches
March 30, 2015
Wherever you worship, if you can possibly avoid doing so, don’t miss any Holy Week service. In fact, all three of the Holy Week services beginning with Maundy Thursday are actually one continuing service—“the Great Triduum”—with breaks between them for rest, prayer, and necessary activities. To miss worship on any of the three evenings is to miss part of the opportunity for the past, present and future of God’s saving deeds to become really present, through his grace, in your life today.
Indeed, no other service in the year, and no other attendance at worship during the year, can fully compensate for missing any part of the week on which all of the remainder of the year is based.
All of the meaning and drama of the liturgy throughout the year find their primary source in Holy Week. If you live fully in Holy Week and worship fully in Holy Week, the liturgy can more readily come alive for you thereafter.
Except for limited and recent aberrations, Holy Week has, for 2,000 years, been nearly universally understood among Christians as being the time of most sacred and solemn obligation for full participation by every Christian in all of the Holy Week services. That is not to say it’s easy; it never has been, and it never will be. If we think about it, however, we know that although grace is free, it is not cheap. It came at the highest possible cost. That freely given but so-costly grace demands our complete response, in the worship of our Lord, as our highest priority of the year.
Holy Week Services at Epworth
Maundy Thursday (Part 1 of "The Great Triduum", or "The Great Three Days""
April 2, 7:00 p.m.: Service based upon The Book of Common Prayer, followed by the stripping of the altar, so that the place of worship begins to resemble a burial sarcophagus. This part 1 ends without a benediction, because the Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil services are regarded as one continuing service, just as the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus are one integral event.
Good Friday (Part 2 of "The Great Triduum":
April 3, 7:00 p.m.: Service based upon The Book of Common Prayer, including the reading of the Passion of Our Lord; the Solemn Collects; and the Tolling: the organ announces, in one repeating solemn tone, each of the years of the earthly life of our Lord. Again, there is no benediction.
Easter Vigil, Saturday Night (Part 3 of "The Great Triduum"):
April 4, 8:00 p.m.: After the people gather out of doors for the lighting of the fire and Paschal candle, the service proceeds in semi-darkness with the glorious and ancient hymn, the Exsultet, the reading of the stories of Creation, Israel's deliverance at the Red Sea, salvation offered freely to all, the giving of a new heart and a new spirit, and Christ's Resurrection. Upon the announcement of the Resurrection, the lights come up to the accompaniment of the "Epworth Peal", and the essential unity of The Great Triduum comes together as at no other time. Renewal of baptismal vows and Holy Communion follow, to conclude The Great Three days.
Easter Sunday April 5:
10:00 a.m.: Worship service of Word & Table
11:30 a.m.: Refreshments
11:45 a.m.: "Afterword", (post-service discussion with Hot Cross Buns), to review and internalize what happened in the service
These look like separate services, but as a matter of fact, a special practice of early Christian worship was to treat the three days from Thursday night to Sunday morning as an act of one continuous worship. That practice of “The Great Three Days” has been revived in the worship renewal of the twentieth century.
Because the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus are not three separate events, but one event, integral and indivisible, the services of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday/Easter Day are not three separate services but one service, integral and indivisible, celebrated over three days.