“The Three Days are a special time to set aside each year to celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.”
Why These Three Days?
We have entered the holiest of weeks for Christians and will soon be enveloped in the Triduum – three days of prayer in preparation of the greatest feast of the church year.
In the Jewish tradition, each year at the Jewish seder meal, a child asks, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” A series of four questions follows, and parents pass on the faith by telling the story of the Exodus, the central story in the Hebrew scriptures of God’s love and salvation for God’s people. In Holy Week, a Christian child might ask, “Why are these Three Days different from all others? In other weeks, we gather for worship only once. Why in this week do we come so often?” The Three Days are a special time to set aside each year to celebrate the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
For households with busy lives, it may be tempting to worship on Palm Sunday and Easter Day but miss the great Three Days, the Triduum. Parents may also assume that the mood of these days is too somber for children or that children will be disruptive to other worshippers. But these once-a-year liturgies offer a unique ritual environment for the retelling of the central events of the last days of Jesus’ life and of God’s saving act in the Resurrection.
Why Maundy Thursday?
Churches may celebrate Maundy Thursday with Holy Communion, Agape meals, or Foot-Washing. This recounting of Jesus’ last meal with his disciples, his commandment to love one another, and his being handed over to death draws us into the story through foot washing, communion and the stripping of the altar. Acts that all ages can participate in. Consider the following poem portion:
They kneel on the slanting floor
before feet as white as roots,
humble as tree stumps.
Men before men,
women before women,
to soothe the sourness
bound in each other’s journeys.
Corns, calluses, bone knobs
all received and rinsed,
given back clean
to Sunday shoes and hightops.
-George Ella Lyon “The Foot Washing” in Appalachian Journal 9, no. 4 (Summer 1982)
Why Good Friday?
On Good Friday, we will enter churches stripped of adornment with the exception of a cross. We will hear the Passion or reflections on the “7 words”. It is a day of somber reflection that we leave in silence. All ages have the capacity for wonder and reflection. Consider the following reflection:
Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Body of Christ, save me. Blood of Christ, inebriate me. Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me. O Good Jesus, hear me. Within they wounds, hide me. Permit me not to be separated from Thee.
From the wicked foe, defend me. At the hour of my death, call me. And bid me to come to Thee, that with Thy saints I may praise Thee, for every and ever. Amen.
-Ignatius of Loyola
Why the Easter Vigil?
The Easter Vigil is sometimes called the “queen of the Christian year.” The Vigil offers movement from darkness to light; the extended storytelling that sets the gospel in the context of salvation history and the celebration of Baptism. There is opportunity to engage multiple senses. For all ages, imagination and wonder are touched. Consider the following prayer:
O God, you are the creator of the world, the liberator of your people, and the wisdom of the earth. By the resurrection of your Son free us from our fears, restore us in your image, and ignite us with your light, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
-Prayer of the Day, Sundays and Seasons (Augsburg Fortress)
Sharon Ely Pearson is a 30+ year Christian formation veteran, currently serving as an editor and the Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Incorporated. Wife, mother, grandmother, and author, she enjoys connecting people with each other and the resources they need for growing in the knowledge and love of Jesus.
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