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What does the word “Triduum” mean?

Pope Francis presides over the Passion of the Lord mass on Good Friday in St. Peter's basilica at The Vatican

Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Philip Kosloski - published on 03/28/24

In the Catholic Church, the final three days before Easter are called the Triduum. What does that word actually mean?

Sometimes the words used by the Roman Catholic Church for the liturgy can be confusing, especially if you are not an expert at Latin. One example is the word “Triduum,” which is used to describe the final days before Easter.

These three days (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday) are often referred to in English as the, “Sacred Triduum,” “Holy Triduum,” or “Easter Triduum.”

The official Latin name is, “Sacrum Triduum Paschale,” which combines all of the above names, referring to the “Sacred Paschal (Easter) Triduum.

Triduum

The Latin word “triduum” simply means “three days.” It is not a word used exclusively for the Easter Triduum, as it was historically used to denote various other sets of days prior to a feast.

The Catholic Encyclopedia explains that a “triduum” is “A time frequently chosen for prayer or for other devout practices, whether by individuals in private, or in public by congregations or special organizations in parishes, in religious communities, seminaries, or schools. The form of prayer or devotion depends upon the occasion or purpose of the triduum. The three days usually precede some feast, and the feast then determines the choice of the pious exercises.”

For example, there was, “a triduum in honour of the Holy Trinity, of the Holy Eucharist, and of St. Joseph.

These triduums were times of more intense prayer in preparation for Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi in June and St. Joseph’s Day on March 19. Various popes instituted them in hopes of increasing the devotion of the faithful.

They are no longer on the liturgical calendar, but some still observe them in their personal prayer life.

The Easter Triduum is the only one that remains on the calendar and is the summit of the entire liturgical year.

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