April 11, 2017

Fifteen Questions on the Paschal Triduum

The Passion of Christ

Each year, the Secretariat of Divine Worship receives inquiries concerning the celebration of the Paschal Triduum. The following questions address the most commonly received questions, and may be freely reproduced to inform those seeking to promote the effective celebration of these most sacred days.

1.) When does the Triduum begin and end? 

The Easter Triduum begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday.

2.) What are the Holy Oils consecrated and blessed at the Chrism Mass? 

The oils, in suitable vessels, are carried in the procession of the gifts and the Bishop blesses each of the three oils separately. The Oil of Catechumens is blessed and will be used at Baptisms; the Oil of the Sick is blessed and will be used for the Anointing of the Sick; and the Oil of Chrism (mixed with balsam) is consecrated and will be used at Baptisms, Confirmations and Ordinations to the Priesthood. These oils are distributed to each of the parishes in the Diocese of Burlington and will be used throughout the year.

3.) Is the Mandatum, the washing of feet at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, required?

No. The Roman Missal only indicates, “After the Homily, where a pastoral reason suggests it [ubi ratio pastoralis id suadeat], the Washing of Feet follows.”

4.) When should the Good Friday Celebration of the Lord’s Passion take place? 

Normally it should take place after noon to commemorate the traditional time devoted to enable people to assemble more easily. However, pastoral discretion may indicate a time in the evening.

5.) What is unique about the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion? 

Historically, even though the Eucharist is not celebrated on this day, the liturgy of Good Friday bears resemblance to a Mass. At one time, it was called the “Mass of the Presanctified” (referring to the preconsecrated hosts used at Communion, even when only the priest received Communion). This is also reflected in the prescribed vesture for the priest: stole and chasuble. The liturgy of Good Friday, as an integral part of the Triduum, is linked to the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper and the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. There may be cases where a parish with multiple churches or chapels (e.g., mission churches or a cluster of parishes under one pastor) might rotate the liturgies among the various locations.

6.) What are the readings proclaimed at the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion? 

All three readings (Isaiah, Hebrews, and the Passion according to John) are required because they respectively anticipate or reflect upon the grave sufferings of Jesus Christ.

7.) Does the Church encourage any other liturgical celebrations on Good Friday? 

On this day, the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer could appropriately be celebrated with the participation of the people in the churches.

8.) Do devotions have a particular importance on Good Friday? 

The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy (2002) provides the proper perspective in paragraphs 142-145. Clearly the central celebration of this day is the Good Friday Celebration of the Lord’s Passion. In no way should manifestations of popular piety, either by the time or manner in which they are convoked, substitute for this solemn liturgical action. Nor should aspects of the various acts of piety be mixed with the Good Friday celebration.

9.) How is the cross venerated on Good Friday? 

After the showing of the cross, the priest or deacon may carry the cross to the entrance of the sanctuary or another suitable place. The first person to adore the cross is the priest celebrant. He takes off his chasuble and his shoes. The faithful then approach the cross. The personal adoration of the cross is an important feature in this celebration and every effort should be made to achieve it. The rubrics remind us that only one cross should be used for adoration. The foot of the cross as well as the right and left arm can be approached and venerated.

10.) When should the Easter Vigil take place? 

The Vigil, by its very nature, takes place at night. It is a nocturnal vigil, retaining its ancient character of vigilance and expectation, as the Christian people await the Resurrection of the Lord during the night. Fire is blessed and the paschal candle is lighted to illumine the night so that all may hear the Easter proclamation and listen to the word of God proclaimed in the Scriptures. For this reason, the Service of Light (Lucernarium) takes place before the Liturgy of the Word.

11.) How is the First Communion of the neophytes to be emphasized during the Easter Vigil?

The celebrant, before he says, Behold the Lamb of God, may make a brief remark to the neophytes about their first Communion and about the importance of so great a mystery, which is the climax of initiation and the center of the Christian life. This is a night when all should be able to receive Holy Communion under both forms.

12.) What considerations should be given for the paschal candle used at the Easter Vigil? 

This candle should be made of wax, never be artificial, be replaced each year, be only one in number, and be of sufficiently large size that it may convey the truth that Christ is the light of the world. The paschal candle is the symbol of the light of Christ, rising in glory, scattering the darkness of our hearts and minds. Above all, the paschal candle should be a genuine candle, the pre-eminent symbol of the light of Christ. Choice of size, design, and color should be made in relationship to the sanctuary in which it will be placed.

13.) How many readings should be proclaimed at the Easter Vigil? 

One of the unique aspects of the Easter Vigil is the recounting of the outstanding deeds of the history of salvation. These deeds are related in seven readings from the Old Testament chosen from the law and the prophets and two readings from the New Testament, namely from the apostles and from the Gospel. Thus, the Lord meets us once again on our journey and, “beginning with Moses and all the prophets” (Luke 24:27), opens up our minds and hearts, preparing us to share in the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the cup. The faithful are encouraged to meditate on these readings by the singing of a responsorial psalm, followed by a silent pause, and then by the celebrant’s prayer. Meditation on these readings is so significant for this night that we are strongly urged to use all the readings whenever it can be done. Only in the case of grave pastoral circumstances can the number of readings be reduced. In such cases, at least three readings from the Old Testament should be read, always including Exodus 14.

14.) What directives are given for the celebration of Masses on Easter Sunday? 

Mass is to be celebrated on Easter Day with great solemnity. In the dioceses of the United States, on Easter Sunday the rite of the renewal of baptismal promises takes place after the homily, followed by the sprinkling with water blessed at the Vigil, during which the antiphon Vidi aquam, or some other song of baptismal character should be sung. The holy water fonts at the entrance to the church should also be filled with the same water. On the subsequent Sundays of the Easter season, it is appropriate that the Rite of Blessing and Sprinkling Holy Water take the place of the Act of Penitence (Penitential Rite).

15.) Where is the paschal candle placed during the Easter season? 

The paschal candle has its proper place either by the ambo or by the altar, and should be lit at least in all the more solemn liturgical celebrations of the season until Pentecost Sunday. After the Easter season, the candle should be kept with honor in the baptistery, so that in the celebration of Baptism the candles of the baptized may be lit from it. In the celebration of funerals, the paschal candle should be placed near the coffin to indicate Christ’s undying presence, his victory over sin and death, and the promise of sharing in Christ’s victory by virtue of being part of the Body of Christ (see Order of Christian Funerals, no. 35).

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