Holidays Andregular Observances

What do Christians commemorate on Holy (Maundy) Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday?

The Easter Triduum (three-day period) begins with the commemoration of the evening on which Jesus gathered his Apostles for the Last Supper. Maundy (from the Latin word mandatum, the new “commandment” of service Jesus gave his disciples then) or Holy Thursday is marked in several churches by rituals that include a symbolic “washing of the feet” of several attendees by the priest or bishop. Good Friday recalls the crucifixion and death of Jesus. What could be “good” about such a day?

It represents the ultimate sacrifice by which God redeemed the world through the offering of the only Son. For Christians, this is at the heart of the mystery of salvation. Rituals acknowledge the sanctity and somber nature of the occasion. Some churches feature an extended reading of one of the Gospel accounts of the Passion and Death of Jesus, while some perform classic music; others commemorate the events of the day with a ritual called the Stations of the Cross, the “Three Hours” ritual recalling the time Jesus spent on the cross, or by reenacting Christ’s deposition from the cross and burial. Pilgrims to Jerusalem on this day participate in a lengthy procession through the streets of the old city, retracing (at least in part) the steps of Jesus toward Calvary or Golgotha, the hill of the crucifixion. In liturgical Western churches, the day ends with the stripping of the altar, leaving a bare table and an empty tabernacle (where the consecrated bread is ordinarily kept) as symbols of mourning. Holy Saturday memorializes the day of waiting and uncertainty experienced by Jesus’ followers, who hoped his predictions of a victory over death would prove true. Some churches celebrate a ritual on Saturday at midnight or earlier in the evening in anticipation of Easter.

Christian pilgrims carrying the Cross in procession through the streets of Jerusalem en route to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, recalling the last hours of Jesus’ life.


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