Good Friday begins the Sacred Triduum, or Three Sacred Days, of our redemption. This is a celebration: a celebration of our Lord's institution of the sacrament of his Body and Blood: but it is pervaded by the shadow of the cross. Jesus gathered with his disciples in the context of the greatest of all events in Israel's redemption – the exodus and the Passover. Yet the normal joy of such an evening was muted by betrayal, the failure of his friends to understand what he was doing, and his own fear of what was to come.

It was a farewell dinner in which Jesus, by washing his disciples feet, sought to illustrate one final time the character of love and ministry which is central in the life to which he calls us: self-giving love to the point of dying for one's friends. We hear the ancient instructions for celebrating the Passover, Paul's account of the institution of the Eucharist, and John's account of the moment when Jesus washed his disciples' feet.

After Holy Communion tonight, the liturgy will not end. It continues tomorrow, Saturday, and Sunday when it comes to its conclusion.

Today's liturgy is the second part of a complex series of rites which cover the Three Sacred Days of our redemption. This liturgy began last night on Maundy Thursday and will be concluded on Sunday. We will engage in intense intercessory prayer for the church and for the world. It was on the cross that Jesus made his full intercession for us, and we are united with him through Baptism in that intercession.

The final portions of this liturgy take place before a cross, where we praise Christ for his love, which he demonstrated on the cross. Then we receive Holy Communion from the Sacrament consecrated on Maundy Thursday. At the end of the liturgy, the church is left in silence and darkness, as we prepare for the final act, which begins at the Great Vigil at sunrise on Sunday. It is as though the church has died and now waits silently to be resurrected out of the baptismal font at the Great Vigil of Easter.


In this liturgy, we gather in the darkness of the night on which Jesus rose from the dead. This service is unlike any other service in the year. It is the Christian Passover feast, in which we celebrate the Passover of Jesus from death into life we and our own passover from death into life in Holy Baptism. The service has four parts:

  • The Service of Light

We gather to kindle a fire to drive away the darkness, and from the new fire a large candle is lighted, called the paschal candle. As it is carried into the midst of our assembly the deacon sings out "The light of Christ," and we respond "Thanks be to God." From this candle. The people light their own small candles, and the church is filled with the light of Christ. Then the deacon or another says or sings the ancient hymn known as the Exsultet, which praises God for this night in which the ancient people of Israel were delivered from Egypt at the Red Sea, in which Christ rose from the dead, and in which we are baptized into his death and resurrection.

  • The Vigil

We then settle down and read a number of passages from the Old Testament, which cover the major events of salvation history. After each reading we sing a psalm and stand as one of the ministers leads us in a prayer, which relates the reading to our salvation and our Baptism

  • Renewal of Baptismal Vows

By reminding us of our sacred story, the readings have reaffirmed our identity as the people of God, the Body of Christ. Now we renew the promises of Baptism, by which the church gave birth to us as members by water and the Holy Spirit. It is in the rising of the newly baptized from the waters of Baptism that the Resurrection of Christ is renewed in our midst. When we, the members of his Body, stand in prayer, the Body of Christ is risen and made visible to the world.

  • Holy Eucharist

This is the Eucharist of the year – the one of which all our other Eucharists are repetitions. In this Eucharist, St. Paul reminds us that in Baptism we have died with Christ in order that we may be raised with him, and we hear Matthew's account of the empty tomb, when the risen Christ met the women and sent them to tell the others that he was risen from the dead. In sign and Sacrament, holy story and song, the dying and rising of Jesus in the midst of the people is once again enacted. Sharing in the holy gifts of the altar, we find ourselves made one with Christ and rejoice in this foretaste of the glory of God's kingdom.

This period of the year, from Easter Day through the Day of Pentecost, is the oldest part of the Church Year. It is directly derived from the fifty-day period in the Jewish calendar, which began with Passover and concluded with Pentecost (the Greek word for "fiftieth day.")The Lord's death and resurrection took place at Passover, and its completion - the empowering of the apostles by the Holy Spirit – took place on Pentecost. These are the church's original feast days, which in very early times were both moved to the Sundays following the Jewish festivals, because of the early church's intense reverence for the first day of the week as the Lord's Day, the Day of Resurrection. The early Christians considered every Sunday to be a celebration of the rising of Christ and of the coming of the Holy Spirit – a repetition of Easter and Pentecost.

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Easter is indeed the day we can say, "The Lord is risen again!" (Ua ala hou mai Ka Haku!)
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