The Great Triduum Approaches
April 10, 2017
Plan now to attend Every service. It’s a matter of priorities.
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.
As you have attended services at Epworth, have you ever wondered why such a big deal is made, and so much emphasis is given, to the intentionality, theme, cohesiveness, scope and integrity of each Sunday’s worship service? The answer to that question is this: Holy Week. All of the meaning and drama of the liturgy throughout the year find their primary source in Holy Week. The events of Holy Week are why we’re here, why Epworth exists, and why we do what we do throughout the year. 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, April 13, 7:00 p.m.
Good Friday, April 14, 7:00 p.m.
Easter Vigil, Saturday, April 15, 8:00 p.m.
Easter Sunday, April 16, 10 a.m., Word & Table
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. The word triduum (“three days”) was first used by Augustine to express the essential unity of this single, three-day service. According to ancient understanding, the day begins at sundown rather than at midnight. Thus the evening of Holy Thursday is considered the beginning of Good Friday, the first day of the triduum (Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter day).
As part of the triduum, the services of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are not optional extras for the very devout, but essential elements of the entire service, without which the celebration of Easter is incomplete. To experience fully the meaning of the triduum, it is necessary to participate fully in each of its component parts.