Holy Week and Triduum
By Diana Dudoit Raiche, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Neuhoff School of Ministry
Date published: April 8, 2020
Entering Holy Week and anticipating Triduum and Easter, we are reminded that the Paschal
mystery (the life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Jesus Christ) is the heart
of Christian redemption and no mere theological construct. We are all called to live
the Paschal mystery with a consciousness that reminds us we live between two poles:
the first and second coming of Christ. Whatever changes are called for during the
COVID-19 pandemic, the liturgies of Holy Week, the Triduum and the glory of Easter
maintain focus on the Paschal mystery of Jesus Christ.
The Paschal mystery, manifested in the liturgical calendar and the liturgies of the
Church, is the same Paschal mystery that we are called to live daily as Christians.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic Paschal mystery consciousness invites us to
consider deprivations as a new way of fasting, self-discipline and Christian charity.
In this context, we remember that Jesus’ incarnation opens a door for new and eternal
life for humanity. His life on earth shows us the WAY to our true end in God. His
death secures our salvation. His ascension to the Father ensures that he will be with
Taking solace that Christians have access to live-streamed liturgies and Papal Masses
televised from Rome, we also recall that the Paschal mystery transcends time, space,
and location. For example, in the first centuries of the Church, there was no Eucharist
during the week prior to Easter. “Maundy” Thursday emerged in the Middle Ages as Holy
Thursday with attention to Reconciliation of Penitents and foot washing, a sign that
we are to love and serve one another, as Christ did. Early Christians connected receiving
the body and blood of Christ as nourishment, equipping them for serving others. Christian
pilgrims experienced Lenten Scrutinies with Cyril of Jerusalem (4 th C), which celebrated
liturgies that were not universally known. Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday
emerged as those who could not gain access to relics of the true cross of Christ wanted
to remember the Paschal mystery in an incarnational way. Stations of the Cross emerged
as a meditation on the original Way of the Cross.
In contemporary times, the Church in her wisdom anticipates the unusual and gives
options for catechumens who await baptism at Easter, baptized Christians who long
for full communion, and for the faithful, as well. RCIA leaders will be familiar with
RCIA no. 34 (what the Bishop can do in unusual times); nos. 26-30 (celebrating baptisms
outside usual times); no. 20 (Scrutinies outside Lent), no. 27 (celebrating initiation
on a Sunday in Ordinary Time). These liturgies of the Rite of Christian Initiation
of Adults form us all in Paschal mystery consciousness, giving us the patterns for
living, dying to self, and rising to embrace Christ as Lord and Savior. The liturgies
of the Church may have evolved and been transformed over time, but the constant is
consciousness of the meaning of the Paschal mystery of Jesus Christ.
Reflecting on the Paschal mystery can shape or reshape our response to COVID-19 and/or
other crises. Who and what do we love? Who and what do we value? Who and what deserves
our time, talent and treasure? What are we to do? How are we to be?
During the coronavirus pandemic, life goes on, although changed. Grace and generosity
abound. First responders to those who have contracted the coronavirus manifest loving
service, self- giving, and self-sacrifice. Christians are reminded that death does
not have the last word. Little resurrections occur daily, taking many forms, reminding
us that we are made for more than this earthly life.
Let us recall, then, the comforting words of saints and mystics “Nada te Turbe” Let
nothing disturb you. (Teresa of Avila) and “All shall be well, and all shall be well,
and all manner of thing shall be well.” (Julian of Norwich).
Holy Week and Triduum Resources