The Triduum in detail
On Maundy Thursday, the first evening of our Triduum liturgy the service begins in the usual manner with Schola leading us in the entrance hymn. The scripture readings have been recast so that it feels more like storytelling, which is how these narratives were originally passed down. The readings are also rearranged chronologically so that we move from the story of the Passover, to the practice of foot washing and new commandment, to St. Paul’s (and our) remembering of the Last Supper.
A word about foot washing:
Washing someone else’s feet is a very intimate act. Probably the most intimate act we perform in church. Scholars remind us that what Jesus is doing here (in part) is demonstrating the intimacy of our relationship with God. Jesus desires us to be in a deep, intimate relationship with the creator of all life, and to recognize our deep connections to one another. On Maundy Thursday, you will be invited to take part in both washing and being washed, participation is up to you, but whether you participate or not you are encouraged to reflect on how your feelings about serving and being served shapes your relationships. How does giving or receiving loving service shape your views about power and authority—about who has it, how it’s shared, or not? How does your experience with this ritual act shape your vision of the church’s ministry?
Following the foot washing, there are no Prayers of the People (those take place Friday night), instead we gather around the altar for the last Communion before Easter. At the conclusion of Communion, we take part in the Vigil in the garden, then the altar is stripped and washed, during which Schola sings Tantum Ergo, and all the reserved sacrament is consumed. Following a retelling of the Betrayal narrative the service descends into silence.
The second night of our Triduum liturgy, Good Friday, highlights the sense of isolation, and separation from God and each other in several ways: the nave altar, one of our primary symbols of Christ in our midst, is removed; the Scripture is read from the high lectern emphasizing the distance between us and the Word; the organ is silent. The Choir leads the service a cappella and retells the Passion of Christ, and leads the Prayers of the People (The Solemn Collects) in the haunting chanted version we have come to love at All Saints. By ancient custom, Good Friday is the one day in the Christian year when the Eucharist is not celebrated. Towards the end of the service a large wooden cross will be brought in and placed in the sight of the people. During this Veneration of the Cross you will be invited to come forward and touch the wood, walk around it, kneel before it, or find a spot where you will be able to sit, or kneel, and pray silently.
A word about offerings: A formal offering is not taken during the Thursday or Friday services, on Good Friday there will be collection plates near the entrances. Your contributions will go to support the work of the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East. Checks may be made payable to All Saints Parish, with Good Friday Offering in the memo line.
As we re-gather for the Great Vigil and the first Eucharist of Easter on the third night, Holy Saturday, the church is dark and silent. In the dark a fire is kindled. The Paschal candle is lit. Pascha is the Greek term meaning “passage” or Passover. This candle burns throughout the great 50 days of Easter until Pentecost. During the Vigil, we return to the storytelling we began on Thursday. The style of some of the readings will be reminiscent of those Thursday readings, some will be more traditional scripture readings. All of them describe God’s redeeming acts in history and God’s persistent call and invitation into deeper love and greater relationship with God and our neighbors.
Please remember to bring a bell to ring at the Easter Proclamation. We will renew our Baptismal promises and hear the homily. It is a tradition in many Orthodox Churches to read aloud the Paschal sermon of St. John Chrysostom (written around the year 400CE) on the morning of Easter. This year we will add this tradition to our Vigil. We conclude our Triduum service with the first Eucharist of Easter.
A word about incense:
Since the early days of the Church, incense has been used to enhance worship. The Book of Revelation, for example, says that, “the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God…”(Rev.8:4). Incense will be used during the Great Vigil and at both services on Easter morning.