Pre-college, I didn’t really pay attention to the distinct differences among the services within Holy Week. To me it was a week of going to church day after day and I dreaded it. And for years after I was not a regular church-goer.
However, when I returned with vigor to my Catholic roots, I began attending as many of the services held during Holy Week as I possibly could. And with that many questions arose:
- Why is there no consecration on Good Friday?
- Triduum? What?
- Why do we kiss Jesus’ feet on the cross? And some people genuflect. Should I be doing that?
- Oh man, I really need to go to confession.
That last one is a statement and not a question, sure, but it was still a concern that arose that scared me to death. So it earned its place on the list.
Why is there no consecration on Good Friday?
The first time in my adult life I attended all services within the Triduum, I was confused when we seemed to leap-frog right to communion without the entirety of the Liturgy of the Eucharist during the Good Friday service. Turns out, this is called the Liturgy of the Presancitified.
So let’s back up to the presanctification part.
Actually – let’s back up to the beginning of the Triduum. The Triduum lasts for 3 days, but is really a single liturgical celebration. “Though chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery.” – USCCB
The Easter Triduum celebrates three events – The Passion (Holy Thursday), Death on the Cross (Good Friday, Holy Saturday), and Resurrection (Easter Vigil – Easter Sunday).
The Triduum is actually a distinct liturgical period after Lent. Lent ends and the Triduum begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday night. You will note that there are no closing rites at the end of this Mass or on Good Friday as the Triduum will continue for 3 days.
Highlights of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper:
- Washing of the feet following the Liturgy of the Word
- The Gloria is sung for the first time since the beginning of Lent. The bells rang during the Gloria will be silent until Easter Vigil. Minimal musical accompaniment, if any, is used only to support the singing and will remain so until Easter Vigil.
- No Concluding Rite
- Eucharist is placed in repose (a different part of the church or chapel previously prepared) – not the tabernacle which is emptied and remains open.
- Altar is stripped and crosses are removed or veiled.
- Adoration usually available at the place of repose until midnight.
The Triduum continues on Good Friday with a series of 3 events:
- Liturgy of the Word
- Adoration of the Cross
- Holy Communion
- No Opening Rite (because it is a continuation of Holy Thursday’s celebration, which had no Concluding Rite)
- Altar is completely bare – no crucifix, no candles
- Anointing of the Sick and Penance are only sacraments celebrated.
- Celebrant may completely prostrate himself before the altar (lay face down on the floor).
- The Solemn Intercessions – The congregation is asked to kneel and pray silently for each intercession.
- Adoration of the Cross – after which the Cross is then placed at the altar with candles on either side. (Remember all crosses were removed or veiled the night before.) The Cross can be venerated with a kiss, genuflection, or other sign of deep respect.
- No Liturgy of the Eucharist, as the consecration took place on Holy Thursday – hence “Presanctification”. Move straight to the Our Father and Holy Communion. The priest will spread a cloth on the altar and bring in the Blessed Sacrament from its place of repose.
- Altar is once again stripped of everything but the cross and 2 or 4 candlesticks.
- No Concluding Rite
Holy Saturday – We wait at the tomb with prayer and fasting. The altar is still bare and Sacrifice of the Mass is not celebrated. Holy Communion given only to the dying.
Easter Vigil – This is where we shift from waiting at the tomb to celebrating the Resurrection. We move from dark into Light.
- No Opening Rite
- Begins after sunset outside the church
- 4 parts:
- The Solemn Beginning of the Vigil (Lucernarium) – Service of Light
- Blessing of a fire and pascal candle outside the church and a procession with candles is led into the church. The church progressively gets lighter and lighter until all lights are at full brightness at the Gloria.
- Liturgy of the Word
- Baptismal Liturgy – catechumens and RCIA candidates are baptized and initiated into the faith.
- Liturgy of the Eucharist
Easter Sunday – Easter Mass in morning (or afternoon if necessary). Triduum concludes with the evening prayers on Easter Sunday.