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The Rites of Holy Week

Saint Victor Catholic Church | The Easter Triduum | 2021 Schedule | West  Hollywood, CA

We now enter the most sacred and solemn time of the liturgical year. Once arriving at Palm Sunday, no other liturgical celebration can outrank the days of Holy Week—they are in the highest category on the table of precedence. Any attempt to summarize even one of the liturgies of this week in this brief column will certainly fall short. Each liturgy is packed with symbolism and once we arrive at the Sacred Paschal Triduum, the liturgies are truly unique and a once-per-year event. Triduum, meaning “three days,” begins on Holy Thursday and runs through Easter Sunday. At first glance, that seems to be four days, however the days are counted by Jewish custom which means the new day begins at sunset.

Day 1 = Holy Thursday dusk to Good Friday dusk;
Day 2 = Good Friday dusk to Holy Saturday dusk;
Day 3 = Holy Saturday dusk to Easter Sunday dusk.

If you have never attended any of the Triduum other than Easter Sunday Mass, I highly encourage you to come experience these sacred days. Your faith will certainly be deepened by attending these days. Here’s some “Triduum Trivia”:

  • The Triduum is actually one great liturgy spanning the three days. From the entrance antiphon on Holy Thursday until the end of the Easter Vigil, there is no final blessing or dismissal at any of the liturgies.

  • Only one of each of the liturgies (Holy Thursday Mass, Good Friday liturgy, and Easter Vigil) is permitted to be celebrated.

  • No sacraments other than Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick are permitted. Holy Communion may be brought to the sick on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. On Holy Saturday, communion is only permitted as viaticum (to the dying). Similarly, funeral Masses are not permitted. Funerals may only take place at the funeral home as a liturgy of the word.

  • The Oil of the Sick, Oil of Catechumens, and Sacred Chrism which are used in the sacramental life of the parish (blessed by the bishop at the Chrism Mass) are brought forward on Holy Thursday night prior to the Mass.
    Crotalus – Hand Crafted Brazilian Cherry – TETON CRAFT WORKS, LLC
  • On Holy Thursday throughout the singing of the Gloria, the tower bell, consecration bells (and our handbell choir) all ring. Then all bells fall silent until the Gloria during the Easter Vigil. During the consecration on Holy Thursday, a crotalus (wooden clacker) is used instead of the consecration bells.

  • Good Friday is the only day in the liturgical year when Mass is not celebrated. Holy Communion at the Good Friday liturgy comes from hosts consecrated previous evening before at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.
    The history of the adoration of the cross - Our Sunday Visitor
  • On Good Friday, the cross to be adored stops at three locations in the church to be adored at the singing of an acclamation. The next night, the newly lighted Easter candle stops to be adored in those same three spots thus showing the triumph of life over death.

  • The entirety of the Easter Vigil is to take place after dusk and before sunrise. It begins by lighting a “blazing fire” outside the church which lights the candle and incense for the liturgy.
    The Paschal Candle: Everything You Need To Know - F.C. Ziegler Company
  • Prior to lighting the paschal candle, the Greek letters Alpha (A) and Omega (Ω) and the current year are traced onto it. Five grains of incense are then inserted representing the five wounds of Christ.

  • The Exsultet, a beautiful proclamation about the beauty and nobility of the candle, drawing connections between the Passover of the Old and New Covenants, is sung after reaching the sanctuary.

Easter at Pluscarden — Pluscarden Abbey


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