The Three Days: Triduum
That most holy time of the year is here again—Holy Week. Some 2000 years ago everything was made new this week. In three short days the New Testament in Christ’s blood was given, the once and for all sacrifice for sin was offered by Christ our high priest, and victory over death came to mankind through His blood of the New Testament.
This year, we will mark the traditional days of Holy Week: Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday. But this year the pastors of our circuit are also hosting the 3rd part of the Holy Three Days service (known as the Triduum—Latin for Three Days).
Have you ever noticed that both Holy Thursday and Good Friday do not end with a Benediction (blessing)? Or that Good Friday does not begin with an Invocation? That’s because these three services are part of one three day service. The third and final part of the service is known as the Vigil of Easter.
To “keep vigil” is to “keep watch”. Vigils of prayer, singing psalms, and Scripture reading were a common part of ancient Christian practice as the Church eagerly waited for Her Lord’s return. As the years passed, the Vigil of Easter took prominent place in the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection and the waiting for His resurrection.
The Vigil consists of 6 parts:
• the Service of Light (the lighting of the Paschal candle)
• the Service of Readings (a 12 part history of Baptism, death & resurrection)
• the Service of Holy Baptism (a time to remember our own Baptisms)
• the Service of Prayer
• the Service of the Word
• the Service of the Sacrament
The service begins outside the church building at sundown, which is the beginning of the Jewish day (Gen. 1:5). We gather around a bonfire, where the Paschal or Christ candle is lit (which remains lit throughout the entire 40 days from the resurrection, till our Lord's Ascension, to remind us that He is alive and was seen by His disciples throughout that time, 1 Cor. 15:3-7; Acts 1:3). This is why the paschal candle is so large, as it is to be left burning continuously for 40 days.
From this candle, which represents Christ, we each light candles which we carry into the church, led by the light of Christ (Paschal Candle).
The New and Glorious Dawn & Clothing the Altar
In the Jewish calendar Sunday begins at sundown on Saturday. Hence, the Easter Vigil, while it is the somber conclusion of the Sacred Triduum, is filled with the anticipatory joy of the resurrection. The first words of the Service of the Word are: Alleluia! Christ is Risen! At this point the lights in the Sanctuary are thrown on and the altar (which has been bare since its stripping on Holy Thursday) is revested before we celebrate the Lord's Supper.
The service ends with the Benediction which has not been heard since before Holy Thursday.
Come & Go
As this service is a lengthy affair, beginning as the light of day fades, and existing in 6 parts it is something of a come and go event. You are welcome to come for parts of it, and leave when you need to. However, the rich Scriptural themes highlighted in Luther's "Flood Prayer" of baptism, and death and resurrection, are beautifully highlighted if you stay with the Vigil from beginning to end.
The blessings of our Risen Lord be with you throughout this Holy Week, this Easter season, and all the year,
Pastor David Haberstock
Holy Week Schedule:
Palm Sunday - Service of the Word with Procession of Palms, March 25, 9:30am
Holy Thursday - Solemn Divine Service, March 29, 7:00pm (“solemn” means spoken, not sung)
Good Friday Chief Service, March 30, 10:00am
Vigil of Easter, March 31, 7:30pm, at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
The Resurrection of Our Lord, April 1
Easter Dawn Divine Service, 7:00am
Easter Breakfast, 8:15am
Easter Day Divine Service, 9:30am
As last year, we will have the Sacrament of the Altar throughout the 7 Sundays of the Easter season. More opportunities to receive the New Testament in Christ’s blood! In celebration of our Lord’s resurrection the elders have decided to begin wearing the surplices (white robes) they used to wear when distributing our Lord’s body and blood.