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What is Holy Week?

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

It's the week before Easter, and all through the church,

The pastor was frantic, for liturgical themes he did search,

And what to his caffeinated eyes would behold,

But the Triduum, as though it were foretold.

The Pascal Triduum, Latin term for the Holy Three Days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter (both Vigil Saturday and Resurrection Sunday are recognized as the one day of resurrection). In the early church, as in our ELCA liturgy, we practice these three days as one worship experience, beginning on Thursday and ending at Easter, to go through the same time Jesus experienced at his last week before his crucifixion.

On Maundy (Maundatum, or Mandate/Commandment) Thursday, we celebrate the Last Supper in which Jesus instituted the Holy Communion of bread and wine that become for us the body and blood of Christ, and gives us the commandment to love one another as Jesus loves us. During the service, we have a special moment of hand washing along with Holy Communion, as well as the stripping of the altar to represent Jesus' arrest at the hands of the religious officials. The service ends in silence.

The next service, begun in silence, is the continuation of the previous Thursday, and we call it Good Friday. Here we traverse the scripture with readings from Isaiah and John's gospel, to help us feel the impact of Christ's lasts moments before dying on the cross. After each reading, we extinguish a candle, and the sanctuary gets a little darker. At the end, there is one light, Christ's light, that shines in the darkness. We say the Lord's Prayer silently, and end the worship in silence again.

Easter Vigil and Resurrection Sunday are the traditional days of the Resurrection where we celebrate Christ's triumph over death into life, and our old self dying in baptism and rising with Christ to a new life, one lived for one another rather than our own selfishness. This is the culmination of the holy three days, so there's lots fo light, lots of celebration, and a whole lotta fun!

Pr Dave Miller

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