Today is Holy Thursday, the beginning of the most sacred three days of the liturgical calendar, known as the Paschal Triduum: the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the Passion of our Lord on Good Friday, and the Solemn Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday.
Holy Thursday marks the end of the Lenten Season, and the Church celebrates a triple anniversary: the Institution of the Holy Eucharist, the Institution of the Ministerial Priesthood, and the Commandment to love one another as Christ has first loved us.
Holy Thursday provides us a perfect opportunity to reflect upon the spiritual meaning of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Our faith teaches us that every Mass unites us to the Cross.
At the altar, when the priest lifts up the Host or the Chalice, we are united with Jesus, the angels, saints, and the entire faithful. As the Body of Christ, we are all unified in this beautiful mystery of our faith.
At some parishes, the celebrant may re-enact the Washing of the Feet, as Jesus did for his apostles before the Last Supper. This is an optional part of the Mass. This humble gesture is a visible reminder of the love that we are called to have for one another.
It is after the Holy Thursday Mass that some may want to observe a traditional devotion during Holy Week, the visitation of parish churches on Holy Thursday evening to pray before the Blessed Sacrament. See more details, and a list of churches open late tonight for Adoration, in this AD Today article.
On Good Friday, the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion marks the Crucifixion and Death of our Lord. In a prayerful and solemn manner, the Church joins together in reflection on the great sign of our salvation, the Cross. The Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion offers us an opportunity to embrace this mystery.
Filled with simplicity and starkness, Good Friday is the only day of the liturgical calendar in which Mass is not celebrated. Rather, the Church celebrates a simple liturgy filled with three key elements: the Liturgy of the Word, the Veneration of the Cross, and the Distribution of Holy Communion consecrated on Holy Thursday.
An additional petition has been added to this Liturgy this year, a prayer for peace in Ukraine.
The day before Easter, sometimes called Holy Saturday, is the Easter Vigil. In the Diocese of Allentown, it is always celebrated at 8 p.m. or later.
The Paschal Candle represents Christ and is one of the central symbols of this liturgy. It is lit near the ambo, where the readings are proclaimed, for the fifty days of the Easter Season.
For forty days of Lent, the Church refrains from singing the Alleluia. In one of the most striking moments of the Easter Vigil, prior to the Gospel, “Alleluia” is intoned three times, immediately followed by Psalm 118 with its response: Alleluia.
Also at the Easter Vigil are the Sacraments of Initiation, in which those who have been studying and praying to become new Catholics are baptized, confirmed, and receive their first Holy Communion. This year, about 375 people will join the Catholic faith during the Easter Vigil at their parishes.
The celebration of Holy Week and the Paschal Triduum is the topic of a Late Night Lent video airing at 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 13, featuring Father Keith Mathur, Episcopal Master of Ceremonies and Director of the Office for Divine Worship. Late Night Lent videos can be viewed here.