The Easter Triduum According to Three Popes

At the end of Holy Week we celebrate the Easter Triduum, the days from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday. Since the Easter Triduum is the apex of the liturgical year liturgically it is considered as one day which unravels for us the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery. Hence, the liturgical services which make up this Triduum (or three days), namely the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion as well as the Mass of the Lord’s Resurrection bring about this saving powerful unity of grace and hope.

Given the importance of the Eater Triduum it is beneficial to revisit the contribution three Popes left us on this topic. I shall be mentioning some reflections given to us by Pope St John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and the current Pope Francis. The resources I shall be accessing are three catecheses these Popes gave during their general audiences. The first one bears the date of Wednesday 27 March 2002, the second one was delivered on Wednesday 20 April 2011, and the third and final one was given on Wednesday 31 March 2021.

For Pope John Paul II the Easter Triduum is the key that help us experience intensely, through prayer and meditation, the power of Christ’s salvific act for us. He said: The Easter Triduum which will make us relive the central event of our salvation begins tomorrow. These will be days of more intense prayer and meditation in which, with the help of the moving rites of Holy Week, we will reflect on the passion, death and resurrection of Christ (no.1).

The Easter Triduum demonstrates that the Easter event is, in fact, the greatest feast of the Church. He explains: The meaning and fulfilment of human history lies in the Paschal Mystery. “Therefore”, the Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasizes, “Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the “Feast of Feasts’, the “Solemnity of Solemnities’, just as the Eucharist is the “Sacrament of Sacraments’ (the great Sacrament). St Athanasius calls Easter “the Great Sunday’ (Easter Letter 329) and the Eastern Churches call Holy Week “the Great Week’. The mystery of the Resurrection, in which Christ crushed death, permeates with its powerful energy our old time until all is subjected to him” (n. 1169).

 Moreover, the Easter Triduum gives us a profound understanding of the Face of Christ who remains the Face of the only Hope humanity has in the situations it has to contend with. Pope Wojtyla teaches: In the Easter Triduum, we will fix our gaze more intensely on the face of Christ, a face of suffering and agony, that helps us understand better the drama of the events and situations that are afflicting humanity even in these days. His is a Face radiant with light that gives renewed hope to our lives (no.3).

Pope Benedict XVI, from his perspective, aptly describes the Easter Triduum as the hub of that culmination of the Lenten journey which is the Holy Week. He said: We have now arrived at the heart of Holy Week, the culmination of the Lenten journey. Tomorrow we shall enter the Easter Triduum, the three holy days in which the Church commemorates the mystery of the Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus.

Furthermore, the Easter Triduum is the apogee of the mystery of salvation. Due to its singular importance, the Easter Triduum calls each and everyone of us, Christ’s believers, to participate in it with intensity. The Pope comments: I therefore urge you to accept this mystery of salvation and to participate intensely in the Easter Triduum, the fulcrum of the entire Liturgical Year and a time of special grace for every Christian. I invite you in these days to seek recollection and prayer, so as to draw more deeply from this source of grace. In this regard, with a view to the forthcoming celebrations every Christian is asked to celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation, a moment of special adherence to the death and Resurrection of Christ, to be able to participate more fruitfully in Holy Easter.

Finally, for Pope Benedict, the Easter Triduum is the living testament and extraordinary witness of Jesus’ determination to carry out the Father’s will and be faithful to it. Hence, the criterion that throughout his life guided every decision Jesus made was his firm determination to love the Father, to be one with the Father and to be faithful to him; this decision to respond to his love impelled him to embrace the Father’s plan in every single circumstance, to make his own the plan of love entrusted to him in order to recapitulate all things in God, to lead all things to him.

In Pope Benedict’s view, when you and I celebrate with faith the Easter Triduum we train ourselves to imitate Jesus’ most holy example of doing always and everywhere the Father’s will. He said: In reliving the Sacred Triduum, let us also prepare ourselves to welcome God’s will in our life, knowing that our own true good, the way to life, is found in God’s will even if it appears harsh, in contrast with our intentions.

Finally, Pope Francis rightly emphasizes the centrality of the Easter Triduum as well as its renewing spirit of living again the salvific events of Christ’s redemptive act. He said: Already immersed in the spiritual atmosphere of Holy Week, we are on the eve of the Easter Triduum. From tomorrow until Sunday, we will live the central days of the Liturgical Year, celebrating the mystery of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of the Lord. And we live this mystery every time we celebrate the Eucharist. When we go to Mass, we do not go only to pray, no: we go to renew, to bring about again, this mystery, the Paschal mystery. It is important not to forget this. It is as though we were going to Calvary — it is the same — to renew, to bring about again the Paschal mystery.

Adding to this, Pope Francis also refers to that intensity of the liturgy which helps us go to the core of the mystery. When speaking about Good Friday, Pope Francis says: Good Friday is the day of penance, fasting and prayer. Through the texts of the Sacred Scripture and the liturgical prayers, we will be as though gathered on Calvary to commemorate the redemptive Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. In the intensity of the rite of the Liturgical Action, the Crucifix will be presented to us to adore. Adoring the Cross, we will relive the journey of the innocent Lamb sacrificed for our salvation.

With Pope Benedict let us pray to Mary, the Mother of God and Our Mother, to accompany us during this Easter Triduum to translate the grace we shall be receiving into acts of solidarity towards those who are suffering: Mary, guide us on this itinerary and obtain from your divine Son the grace to be able to spend our life for love of Jesus, in the service of our brethren. Amen.


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Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap was born in San Gwann on August 26 1972. After being educated in governmental primary and secondary schools as well as at the Naxxar Trade School he felt the call to enter the Franciscan Capuchin Order. After obtaining the university requirements he entered the Capuchin friary at Kalkara on October 12 1993. A year after he was ordained a priest, precisely on 4 September 2004, his superiors sent him to work with patients as a chaplain first at St. Luke's Hospital and later at Mater Dei. In 2007 Fr Mario obtained a Master's Degree in Hospital Chaplaincy from Sydney College of Divinity, University of Sydney, Australia. From November 2007 till March 2020 Fr Mario was one of the six chaplains who worked at Mater Dei Hospital., Malta's national hospital. Presently he is a chaplain at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. Furthermore, he is a regular contributor in the MUMN magazine IL-MUSBIEĦ, as well as doing radio programmes on Radio Mario about the spiritual care of the sick.