The three days of the Sacred Paschal Triduum are the three holiest days of the year: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. They celebrate the Paschal Mystery of our Lord Jesus Christ, the central mysteries of our faith, both the Passion, his suffering and death, and the Resurrection, his glorious triumph over sin and the grave.
Every day is a day for prayer, but the Triduum stands above all other days as three special days for prayer. It is a time to enter these profound mysteries. There are two principle ways to pray during this time, communal liturgical prayer at church and personal private prayer, and both are highly recommended.
There are three sacred liturgies over these days: the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday evening, the Passion of our Lord on Good Friday, and the Resurrection of the Lord, first celebrated at the Easter Vigil and then also at the Masses on Easter Sunday morning. If there ever was a time to go to church to pray, it is on these three days. It is extremely important to make prayerful participation in these liturgies a top spiritual priority.
The other indispensable way to pray during these three days is personal private prayer. Our lives are so hectic. There are so many things to do and so many places to go. And our lives are so noisy. We talk, talk, talk, and the noise is amplified by television, radio, and all sorts of music media. If there ever was a time to be silent and still, it is on these three days. Turn off the TV or radio. Set the gadgets aside. Reserve the time. Find a quiet place. Center yourself. Focus on God and listen, listen, listen.
There are a number of other special ways to prayerfully participate in the Triduum. On Holy Thursday, at the conclusion of Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession through the church and then transferred to another place where it is reposed, so one option is to spend a period of time in silent adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. During the Last Supper Jesus gave his final words of instruction to his disciples, so it would be timely to reflect upon his Last Supper Discourse, John 13:31 to 16:33. After teaching the disciples, Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and prayed, so it would be an opportune time to ponder the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus, John 17:1-26. After the Last Supper Jesus went to Gethsemane, so it would be appropriate to pray the First Sorrowful Mystery, the Agony in the Garden. Finally, mindful of the footwashing, it is the perfect day to pray about God’s call to humble service.
Good Friday is a solemn and somber day. Fasting and abstinence set a prayerful tone. The scourging at the pillar and the crowning of thorns took place on Good Friday morning, so it would be good to pray the Second and Third Sorrowful Mysteries. Jesus hung upon the Cross for three hours, so an extended period of silent prayer between 12:00 noon and 3:00 p.m. is an excellent option. During these three hours, or at any time on Good Friday, special ways to pray include reading the Passion, John 18:1-19:42; the completion of the Sorrowful Mysteries; the Stations of the Cross; a prayerful reading of the Suffering Servant Canticles (Is 42:1-4; 49:1-7; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12) or the seven Penitential Psalms (Ps 6; 32; 38; 51; 102, 130; 143); and to offer prayer for the Church, the world, and all those in need. It is an ideal time to pray with a Cross, either before a crucifix or to take one in hand, to venerate it, and to gaze upon Jesus’ crucified body and to ponder the meaning of his redemptive suffering and death.
Holy Saturday is a day to keep vigil. As Mary Magdalene kept watch at the tomb in somber silence, it is a time to remain subdued, observe the Triduum fast, and make preparation to celebrate the greatest feast of our faith, the Resurrection of the Lord.