The greatest mysteries of the Redemption are celebrated yearly by the Church, beginning with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday and continuing until Vespers on Easter Sunday. This time is called ‘the triduum of the crucified, buried and risen’, it is also called the ‘Easter Triduum’ because during it is celebrated the Paschal mystery, that is the passing of the Lord from this world to his Father. The Church by the celebration of this mystery, through liturgical signs and sacramentals, is united to Christ, her Spouse, in intimate communion.
The Easter fast is sacred on the first two days of the Triduum, during which, according to ancient tradition, the Church fasts ‘because the Spouse has been taken away’. Good Friday is a day of fasting and abstinence; it is also recommended that Holy Saturday be so observed, so that, the Church, with uplifted and welcoming heart, be ready to celebrate the joys of the Sunday of the Resurrection.
It is recommended that there be a communal celebration of the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer on Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It is fitting that the bishop should celebrate the Office in the cathedral with, as far as possible, the participation of the clergy and people. This Office, formerly called ‘Tenebrae’, held a special place in the devotion of the faithful, as they meditated upon the passion, death and burial of the Lord, while awaiting the announcement of the Resurrection.
For the celebration of the Easter Triduum it is necessary that there should be a sufficient number of ministers and assistants who should be prepared so that they know what their role is in the celebration. Pastors must ensure that the meaning of each part of the celebration be explained to the faithful so that they may participate more fully and fruitfully.
The chants of the people and also of the ministers and the celebrating priest are of special importance in the celebration of Holy Week and particularly of the Easter Triduum, because they add to the solemnity of these days, and also because the texts are more effective when sung.
Episcopal Conferences are asked, unless provision has already been made, to provide music for those parts which it can be said should always be sung, namely:
(a) The General Intercessions of Good Friday; the deacon’s invitation and the acclamation of the people;
(b) chants for the showing and veneration of the cross;
(c) the acclamations during the procession with the paschal candle and the Easter proclamation, the responsorial ‘Alleluia’, the litany of the saints, and the acclamation after the blessing of water.
Since the purpose of sung texts is also to facilitate the participation of the faithful they should not be lightly omitted; such texts should be set to music. If the text for use in the Liturgy has not yet been set to music it is possible as a temporary measure to select other similar texts which are set to music. It is, however, fitting that there should be a collection of texts set to music for these celebrations, paying special attention to:
(a) chants for the procession and blessing of palms, and for the entrance into church;
(b) chants to accompany the procession with the Holy Oils;
(c) chants to accompany the procession with the gifts on Holy Thursday in the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and hymns to accompany the procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the place of repose;
(d) the responsorial psalms at the Easter Vigil, and chants to accompany the sprinkling with blessed water.
Music should be provided for the Passion narrative, the Easter proclamation, and the blessing of baptismal water. Obviously the melodies should be of a simple nature in order to facilitate their use.
In larger churches where resources permit, a more ample use should be made of the Church’s musical heritage both ancient and modern, always ensuring that this does not impede the active participation of the faithful.
It is fitting that small religious communities, both clerical and lay, and other lay groups, should participate in the celebration of the Easter Triduum in neighbouring principal churches.
Similarly where the number of participants and ministers is so small that the celebrations of the Easter Triduum cannot be carried out with the requisite solemnity, such groups of the faithful should assemble in a larger church.
Also where there are small parishes with only one priest it is recommended that such parishes should assemble, as far as possible, in a principal church and there participate in the celebrations.
On account of the needs of the faithful, where a pastor has the responsibility for two or more parishes, in which the faithful assemble in large numbers and where the celebrations can be carried out with the requisite care and solemnity, the celebrations of the Easter Triduum may be repeated in accord with the given norms.
So that seminary students ‘may live fully Christ’s paschal mystery, and thus be able to teach those who will be committed to their care’, they should be given a thorough and comprehensive liturgical formation. It is important that during their formative years in the seminary they should experience fruitfully the solemn Easter celebrations, especially those over which the bishop presides.
– given at Rome, at the Offices of the Congregation for Divine Worship, 16 January 1988