The Paschal Triduum

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The word "triduum" means three days, and the Paschal Triduum, counted from sunset to sunset, marks the time from Holy Thursday evening through Easter Sunday evening. It is a time when Christians fast, pray, and keep watch for the Passover (pascha) of the Lord, when Christ passes over from death to life.

The three days reflect the special meaning of this number. It calls to mind Jesus' telling his disciples three times of his suffering, death, and his resurrection on the third day (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:34). On the third day, God appeared to Moses at Mount Sinai in the midst of fire and smoke (Exodus 19:16-19). The number also recalls the days that the plague of darkness afflicted the Egyptians (Exodus 10:22), the days Moses and the Israelites wandered in the desert before finding water at Marah (Exodus 15:22), the days of Esther's fast (Esther 4:16), the days King Hezekiah was gravely ill (2 Kings 20:5), the number of days the exiles rested upon their return to Jerusalem (Ezra 8:32), and the days Jonah was entombed in the belly of a fish (Jonah 1:17).

Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
(John 1:29, CEV)

John's Gospel introduces Jesus as the paschal lamb (1:29, 36). When Jesus is condemned to death by Pilate (19:14), the sentencing occurs at noon on the day before Passover, the same time that the Passover lambs are being slaughtered in the temple. Jesus dies on a Friday ... the day to prepare for the Sabbath and also Passover (19:31). Jesus is the sacrifice who takes away humankind's sin once and for all (Hebrews 9:26).

The Paschal Triduum, or the three days of Passover, are days of death, rest, and resurrection. From sunset on Holy Thursday to sunset on Good Friday, the focus is on Christ's suffering and death on the cross. Christians are encouraged to fast and to begin their spiritual climb to Mount Golgotha (Mark 15:22). The second day, from sunset on Good Friday to sunset on Saturday, is the Sabbath, a time for rest and continued fasting.

Beginning with sunset on Saturday, the third day of the Triduum, light overcomes darkness (John 1:5). Death is defeated (1 Corinthians 15:54, 55), and the slaughtered Paschal Lamb rises to become the Good Shepherd (John 10). Night shines like the day! The tradition of the Easter Vigil (until sunrise on Easter Sunday) includes Old Testament Scripture readings that recall creation, God's promises to Noah and Abraham, the exodus from Egypt, and God's instructions for the Passover. As the darkness of night passes over into dawn, sorrow gives way to joy and the readings conclude with a resurrection text from one of the gospels. For those who have been preparing for baptism throughout the forty days of Lent, they now become newborn children of God. Others renew their baptismal covenant, remembering that sin and death are drowned in the waters of baptism and that, rising from the waters, they are reborn to new life in the Spirit.

Don't you know that all who share in Christ Jesus by being baptized also share in his death? When we were baptized, we died and were buried with Christ. We were baptized, so that we would live a new life, as Christ was raised to life by the glory of God the Father.

If we shared in Jesus' death by being baptized, we will be raised to life with him. (Romans 6:3-5, CEV)

As the coldness of winter gives way to the warmth of spring, we pass over ... from slavery to freedom, from death to life!

Blessed Pascha!

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