Signs and Symbols of the Triduum

Our chaplain gave a talk about the signs and symbols of the Triduum which was enlightening. I learned a lot even as a cradle Catholic attending this talk for the second time. It is meaningful to understand the rich significance of our rituals. This helps us enter deeper into prayer and appreciate how our living faith comes alive!

Passion Sunday (5th Sunday of Lent)
– We veil statues with a purple cloth to disturb us. This helps us reflect on our condition before Christ came to save us.

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Palm Sunday (6th Sunday of Lent)
– Jesus rides on a colt triumphantly into Jerusalem and this parallels King David in the Old Testament riding into Jerusalem.
– Jesus is the new David, the Messiah that is coming. Just not in the glorious way that people expected.

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, table and indoor

Wednesday of Holy Week
marks the end of Lent

Holy Thursday

Chrism Mass
– Chrism Mass is celebrated.
– All the oils used for the pastoral and sacramental life of the church for the year are blessed and consecrated.
– Priests renew their ordination vows as it is a day which celebrates Christ’ institution of the priesthood at the Last Supper.
– Priests and seminarians celebrate with a feast thereafter.

One Liturgy
The Triduum begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and it is one entire, unbroken liturgy from Holy Thursday to Easter.
– On Good Friday, we leave the church in silence.
– On Holy Saturday, we do not make the sign of the Cross or receive a final blessing.
– On Easter, we finally make the sign of the Cross and receive the final blessing.

Order of the mass of the pre-sanctified

– Church bells ring during the Gloria. The next time the Gloria is sung is at Easter.

Washing of the feet
– This is similar to the Jewish tradition, where it is a sign of hospitality to wash the feet of guests when they enter your house.
–  Traditionally, the priest chooses twelve men to wash and kiss their feet, to symbolize priesthood.
– In the Old Rite, the washing and kissing of the feet are conducted during Vespers on Holy Thursday by the Bishops.
– This action is an act of humble service:  “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15).

washing of feet

– Jesus celebrates the Passover with the apostles in the Upper Room.
– In the Passover, the Jews consume a foul tasting lamb with bitter herbs as a saving moment.

last supper

Consecration of hosts
–  The hosts that are consumed on Good Friday are consecrated on Holy Thursday.

– Mass ends with a procession, akin to Jesus who leaves the Upper Room and processes to the Garden of Gethsemane.
– The Blessed Sacrament and the ciborium is removed from the chapel/ church and transferred to the Altar of Repose.
– We spend time at the Altar of Repose which is akin to us joining Our Lord in the garden of Gethsemane.
– Jesus requests for His apostles to stay and pray, while He ventures further and experiences the Agony in the garden.


Church Visitation
– This tradition of visiting seven churches is great if it is done prayerfully. However, our chaplain discourages this practice if it becomes a social event and/or an opportunity to marvel pretty flowers rather than spending time in prayer.
– The purpose is to stay and watch for an hour, as we would with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. This is in response to Jesus’ words: “What? Could you not watch one hour with me? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

Good Friday

The service typically takes place at 3pm, which is the hour when Jesus died.

– Holy Thursday is to commemorate priesthood while Corpus Christi is to reveal the glory of God.
– Good Friday is about the sorrow of the Cross while the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is a joyous celebration.

Order of Good Friday service

– We genuflect only to the Cross (which won for us our salvation) when we leave the church.

– The priest prostrates himself at the start of the service.

priest prostrate

Solemn Intercessions
– We utilize the grace of Jesus’s death to pray for the following ten intercessions.
– They are: for the Pope, the Church, priests and religious, catechumens, the unity of Christians (non-believers), the Jews, those who do not believe in Christ and God, people in public office, and those facing tribulations.

Adoration of the Cross
– The covered cross is taken from the sacristy and brought to the center of the sanctuary for the procession.
– The Cross is processed thrice through the aisle while singing, “Behold, the wood of the cross, whereon was hung the Saviour of the world…”

Venerate the Cross
– We kneel and kiss the feet of Jesus on the Cross.
– The priest removes his shoes during the washing of the feet and when venerating the Cross in the same way you would remove your shoes when you are home.
– This is to symbolize that this is where the priest belongs – his home is in Christ!
– The cross is then removed from the chapel/ church.

Jesus passion

Holy Communion
– Good Friday used to be the one day a year when you cannot receive Holy Communion/ Christ.
– After the reformed liturgy, however, they have reinstituted this practice so one can receive Holy Communion on Good Friday.

– The same rule on Ash Wednesday applies, which is no meat and two small meals that do not add up to one meal.

Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday 

Commemorates Christ’ descend into hell
– Jesus joined the souls of Abraham and everyone else before His time and brought them back to Heaven.

Timing and duration
– In the Jewish tradition, the day begins when the sun goes down. Thus, the Easter Vigil takes place between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Sunday.
– The Easter Vigil is a longer service as we are to keep watch with Jesus.
– The old creation dies with Jesus’s death and Jesus is the new creation: “Behold, I have come to make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).

Order of Easter Vigil

The Service of Light: Blazing fire
– The fire used at Easter is the same fire used to light the church throughout the year.
– All broken sacramentals, palms etc. are to be disposed of in this fire.

Paschal candle 
– This candle symbolizes the light of Christ.
– The inscription of the candle reads alpha, and omega, with the numerals of the present year.

– Abraham falls into a deep sleep and a burning fire appears as a sign that God leads him through death into life.
– In the same way, we process into a dark church and the entire church is filled with only our candlelight.


– We sing the exsultet as a proclamation of Easter!
– Our chaplain advises us to read and ponder over the beautiful words before the Vigil.
– The Easter candle remains lit as our candlelights are extinguished.

The Liturgy of the Word
– The seven readings from the Old Testament capture all of salvation history.
– The two readings from the New Testament are the epistle and the gospel.

– This reading is from the epistle of Saint Paul.

– The gloria is sung for the first time since Holy Thursday.
– Bells are rung, the lights come back on, and the purple cloth is removed from the statue.

– This is a reading about Jesus’ resurrection which is Saint Paul’s interpretation of Christ’s sacrifice.

– The choir sings the canticle.
– Incense is used.

Liturgy of baptisms and confirmations

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Liturgy of the Eucharist
– Holy Communion is distributed to baptized Catholics.

Final blessing

Easter Sunday

Order of Easter Sunday mass
This is similar to any normal Sunday mass, with a reading which speaks of Jesus’ resurrection.

The sprinkling of holy water
The priest sprinkles the congregation in the Old Rite but it is not mandatory now.


There are 50 days of Easter! Kara Becker and Mary Williams have created this free beautiful reflection booklet for the 2018 Easter Octave so be sure to check it out!

Wishing you a prayerful holy week and blessed Easter!

Sacred Heart Church

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