The unity of these three days from evening prayer on Holy Thursday until evening prayer on Easter Sunday celebrates the passion, death and resurrection of the Lord. It is the culmination of the entire liturgical year. Come let us adore.
Christ redeemed humankind and gave perfect glory to God principally through his Paschal Mystery: dying he destroyed our death and rising he restored our life. Therefore the Easter triduum of the passion and resurrection of the Lord is the culmination of the entire liturgical year. Thus the solemnity of Easter has the same kind of preeminence in the liturgical year that Sunday has in the week.
The Easter triduum of the passion and resurrection of the Lord begins with the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday, the Sunday of the Lord’s resurrection. On Good Friday and, if possible, also on Holy Saturday until the Easter Vigil, the Easter fast is observed everywhere.
“The Easter Vigil, during the holy night when the Lord rose from the dead, ranks as the “mother of all holy vigils.” Keeping watch, the Church awaits Christ’s resurrection and celebrates it in the sacraments. Accordingly, the entire celebration of this vigil should take place at night, that is, it should either begin after nightfall or end before the dawn of Sunday.”
Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship, General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, n18-21
The Latin word 'triduum' refers to the 'three great days' in the Church’s calendar, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. These three days recall the events of the night before Christ’s death, his passion and death, and his resurrection.
On Holy Thursday the last supper Jesus had with the apostles is commemorated, during which he instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood.
Good Friday commemorates the events of the passion and death of Jesus, beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane and ending with his crucifixion and death on Calvary.
Holy Saturday is a time of prayer and fasting, and meditation focused on the death and burial of Jesus. Masses are not usually celebrated on this day, and in churches the altar is stripped and the tabernacle open and empty.
The celebration of Easter begins with the :Night of Grace”, the Easter Vigil. “In the darkness of the night, a new fire is blessed ,to be a guide to “the feast of eternal splendour.” The Paschal candle is lit as a luminous symbol of Jesus, the “Morning Star which never sets”, while there rises to God the song called the “Exsultet.”
The sacraments of Christian Initiation are celebrated: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. And all of salvation history is evoked in the biblical readings about the creation, Abraham and Isaac, the passage through the red Sea and other prophetic events which Jesus, risen from the dead, has fulfilled. Now the Resurrection should appear in the truth and purity of our lives”. An Introduction to the Liturgical Year. Inos Biffi .
Easter Sunday, and therefore the Triduum, varies in date from year to year. The Council of Nicea in 325AD decreed that the day of Easter is to be celebrated on the Sunday that follows the first full moon after the vernal equinox, the day in Spring when there is a 12 hour day and a 12 hour night (March 20). This means that Easter can be as early as 22 March and as late as 25 April.
The liturgical colour of Easter is white.
The fifty days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost are celebrated in joyful exultation as one feast day, or better as one 'great Sunday'. These above all others are the days for the singing of the Alleluia.
“The Sundays of this season rank as the Sundays of Easter and, after Easter Sunday itself, are called the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Sundays of Easter. The period of fifty sacred days ends on Pentecost Sunday.
The first eight days of the season of Easter make up the octave of Easter and are celebrated as solemnities of the Lord.
On the fortieth day after Easter the Ascension of the Lord is celebrated, except in places where, not being a holy day of obligation, it has been transferred to the Seventh Sunday of Easter.
The weekdays after the Ascension of the Lord until the Saturday before Pentecost inclusive are a preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete.”
Sacred Congregation of Divine Worship, General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, n22-26
The Easter Vigil, in which the Church keeps watch through the night, awaiting the Resurrection of Christ, leads us into Easter Time – the 50 days from the Sunday of the Resurrection to Pentecost Sunday, described by St Athanasius as ‘one great Sunday’ of joy and exultation. The eight days following Easter are observed as the Octave of Easter and each day has the same solemnity as a Sunday. If another solemnity falls during the octave it is transferred to the following Monday.
The fifty days between Easter and Pentecost are a time of joy and thanksgiving for what Christ has done for humanity. The paschal candle is in a prominent place in the sanctuary of the church and is lit for all liturgical celebrations.
In New Zealand the Ascension is celebrated on the Seventh Sunday after Easter. The feast of the Ascension commemorates the ascension of Jesus into heaven after his resurrection.
One week after the Ascension, on the 50th day after Easter, the feast of Pentecost is celebrated. Pentecost commemorates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the apostles, which empowered them to go out and begin spreading the Gospel. On Pentecost Sunday we celebrate the founding of the Church (sometimes called “the birth of the Church”) and the beginning of its mission to all peoples.
The liturgical colour of most of the Easter season is white. The liturgical colour for Pentecost is red, which symbolises the Holy Spirit and the tongues of fire which appeared above the heads of the apostles when they received the Holy Spirit.