Easter is a glorious time to be Catholic. There is nothing more wonderful than to participate in than the various liturgies of the Easter Triduum, the holiest time of year. This is the solemn three-day period, from the night of Holy Thursday to the Easter Vigil, when the Church accompanies her Savior in His Passion, death, and resurrection.
Painting Easter eggs is a beloved ancient tradition for Eastern Catholic churches as well as Orthodox. The eggs are often dyed red to represent the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed on the cross. The Easter eggs are then carried to the church in baskets to be blessed by the priest at the end of the Easter vigil before being distributed to the faithful. Historically, Christians would abstain from eating eggs during a strict Lent, so Easter was the first chance to eat eggs again after a long period of abstinence. The egg represented the sealed Tomb of Christ, and cracking the shell represented Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
On Holy Saturday our sorrow and emptiness begin to be replaced with a growing joy and anticipation. The night is especially dedicated to the Candidates and Catechumens who will become full members of the Church.
Since the altar was stripped bare and the Eucharist removed from the Tabernacle on Holy Thursday, in the past good Friday was sometimes called “Long Friday.” The church seems empty and we again feel a sense of waiting.
On Holy Thursday we celebrate the institution of the “source and summit” of our Catholic Faith – The Holy Eucharist.
On the night of the Last Supper, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with His disciples: “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.'” (Matthew 26:26-28).
Sundown on Holy Thursday to sundown on Easter Sunday is considered the most solemn part of Holy Week. This three-day period is referred to as the Easter Triduum, also known as the Sacred Triduum, or Paschal Triduum. Basically, the Sacred Triduum is one great festival recounting the last three days of Jesus’ life on earth, the events of his Passion and Resurrection. “Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery” (USCCB).
Holy Week begins with Palm Sunday, when Jesus made his final entrance into Jerusalem, and culminates with Easter Sunday. As Holy Week progresses to its final days the solemnity heightens.
As we reach the middle of Holy Week, our waiting turns to anticipation. Spending a little time in prayer each day has helped us to identify some of our weakness and times we need to turn quickly to Christ for help. On the Wednesday of Holy Week we also remember the betrayal of Judas on the day before the Last Supper, and reflect on how we ourselves have betrayed Our Lord with our sins.
Today we continue our waiting and preparation as we approach Good Friday. Just as you did yesterday reserve some time to “Be still and know that (He) is God” (Psalm 46:10).
If possible, make a Holy Hour today and visit with Our Lord in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. During His agony in the garden on Holy Thursday Jesus asks His disciples to pray with Him. If you don’t have a lot of time, or if you find an hour is too long to stay focused, try going for 15-20 minutes. You will be amazed to find that even this brief break in your day can refresh your soul!
Monday of Holy Week is a day of waiting. Just as in the Christmas carol we sing, “Let every heart prepare Him room”, we must also prepare our hearts for the sorrows of the Sacred Triduum.
Even though Monday can be the most hectic day of the week, don’t forget to carve out some quiet time for yourself today. Get up a little earlier to do the readings for the day. Find a quiet place to sit at lunch and read your favorite spiritual book. Gather your family to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet or the Rosary at the end of the day. These are all excellent examples for integrating the spirit of Holy Week into your day.
Lent is the time of spiritual preparation prior to the Easter season, just as Advent is for Christmas.
“Each year, Lent offers us a providential opportunity to deepen the meaning and value of our Christian lives, and it stimulates us to rediscover the mercy of God so that we, in turn, become more merciful toward our brothers and sisters. In the Lenten period, the Church makes it her duty to propose some specific tasks that accompany the faithful concretely in this process of interior renewal: these are prayer, fasting and almsgiving.” -Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Here’s a rundown of everything major you need to know about the Lenten season, the 40 days of preparation before the greatest of all Christian feasts: Easter.