Passiontide or Holy Week falls at the end of Lent. It begins on Palm Sunday, also called Passion Sunday, and ends at the first Alleluia of Easter in the middle of the Great Vigil on Saturday night. Palm Sunday begins with a triumphal procession that commemorates Jesus entering the Jerusalem on a donkey. The service then underlines the dramatic contrast between the crowd’s joyous greeting of their king and then their condemnation of him—the contrast between shouts of “Alleluia” and “Crucify him!” From a high mood of celebration, the day turns decidedly dark, and we hear of Jesus’ arrest and torture at the hands of the authorities. The color for this Sunday is the red of martyrs, the color of blood. Palm fronds are the symbol.
The Triduum (a Latin word meaning “the three days”) is a single unbroken liturgy that concludes Holy Week. It begins with Maundy Thursday (the name comes from the Latin for command in the liturgy for foot washing - a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another). This liturgy has a dual theme of sacrificial servanthood: footwashing and the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples. At the close of the liturgy all kneel as the altar area is stripped of all ornamentation and any symbols of God's presence (such as the blessed bread and wine, usually reserved behind the altar in a special compartment called the aumbry). There is no dismissal at the end of this service, to emphasize its liturgical unity with the other two days.
On Good Friday our Lord was killed for the folly of humankind and the love and willingness of God to let the consequences play themselves out. We gather, often in the darkness and wearing black, for one of the most touching liturgies of the year: the Stations of the Cross. Here we share our pain with God, who knows all about pain, and tears, and death, and we begin the observance of the three days of death, when our Lord was in the tomb. The lights go dim and we leave in silence to await, finally, upon God's resolution.
Holy Saturday was once a day of fasting in preparation for the Great Vigil of Easter and for baptism. No Eucharist is celebrated, but the Prayer Book provides for the reading of the Passion and an anthem from the Burial of the Dead. We gather in the morning with the children to tell the Easter story; in the evening…The Great Vigil of Easter!