The Paschal Triduum

We Christians are a people of sacramental signs. We search for signs of Christ in everything around us. In doing this, we take our cue from the gospels. Jesus said that he can be found in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the sick. Even the stars in the sky can lead us to find the Lord.

Once each year, at Easter, it seems as if all the signs point in the same direction: Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. Why is this astounding day so important to us? When the spring equinox comes, daytime grows longer than night. Springtime begins. When the moon is full, it rises in the east at the same time the sun sets in the west. So there is never a moment when either the sun or the full moon is not shining in the heavens.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, too, are important signs for us. Friday is the sixth day of the week, when God breathed life into the first human beings. Saturday is the Sabbath, when God rested. On Sunday the week begins once again. It is the day God said, "Let there be light." Friday is the day of Jesus' death. On the Sabbath Jesus rested in the tomb. On Sunday God raised Jesus from the dead. That is why we call Sunday the Lord's Day.

Every year, on the Sunday after the first full moon of spring, we Christians keep the Lord's Day with all our might. In English we name this Sunday "Easter," from an ancient word for the first light of dawn. In most other languages, the word for Easter is based on the Hebrew word for Passover, Pesach. That is where we get the English word "paschal."

This is also the time to celebrate baptism. Like the rising sun or the full moon, like the coming of spring, baptism is a sign of our Passover. For us, baptism is a new creation rising from chaos. It is an escape from slavery through the sea. It is death and burial and resurrection in Christ.

The fast and the feast together - Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Day -- are called the Paschal Triduum, which means "the Three Days of Passover." These three days are begun and ended not from midnight to midnight but from sunset to sunset, in the Jewish manner of reckoning days. From this perspective of counting time, these three days match more closely the days of creation.

The Triduum is the year's heart - the three days of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It is the Passover of the Lord.