by Fr. Richard Greene, Pastor
Palm Sunday today begins Holy Week which culminates in three events—Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. Those events spanned three days: Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.
The Church views those three events, and hence those three days, in a most special way, teaching that they are so intimately connected as to comprise, as it were, one single event called “the Passover mystery” of Jesus which took place, as it were, on one single day. In other words, there were three separate events over three different days, but so closely united in purpose as to form one single reality—namely, Jesus’ one work of salvation offered to the entire human race and accomplished by his “passing over” from his earthly life, which ended in his death and three-day burial, to his heavenly risen life, never to die again.
To describe this “Passover mystery” the Church speaks of “the Easter Triduum,” with the term “Triduum” resulting from combining two Latin words for “three” and “one” to create the meaning of “three-in-one” and applied to Jesus’ “Three Events Taken as One Event” and “Three Days Taken As One Day.”
To look more closely at those three events and three days which comprise Jesus’ one saving event we have to realize that biblical Jews marked the start and end of a day differently from us moderns. Jews back then started each new day at sunset and it ended the following evening at sunset (“sunset to sunset,” whereas we Americans instead start and end each day at midnight). Thus, according to a biblical day the following are the events of the three days of Jesus’ Passover mystery, and thus of the Church’s Easter Triduum:
“Day One”—Good Friday started on what in our reckoning was sunset on a Thursday and ended the following evening at sunset. Accordingly, the Last Supper for Jesus was his first activity on the same day—a Friday—on which he would later during the night be arrested, tortured and crowned with thorns, then once dawn came be tried and convicted by Pilate, be forced to carry his cross, be crucified, die, be taken down from the cross and buried in the evening just before sunset. This latter sunset thus ended the first day of Jesus’ Passover and also concluded the first day on which his body was in the tomb, even if only for a few minutes, in that Mark 15,42 says the burial took place “when it was already evening,…the day of preparation, the day before the sabbath” (which was to begin at sunset), while Matthew 27,57 says only “when it was evening” but Luke 23,54 explains explicitly that “it was the day of preparation, and the sabbath was about to begin,” namely, at sunset.
“Day Two”—Holy Saturday (the Jewish sabbath to which the Gospels refer) started on what in our reckoning was sunset on our Friday and ended the following evening at sunset. This latter sunset ended the second day Jesus’ body was in the tomb, the second day of his Passover.
“Day Three”—Easter Sunday started on what in our reckoning was sunset on a Saturday and ended the following late afternoon at sunset. This marked the third day Jesus’ body was in the tomb, the third day of his Passover, although Mark 16,6 reports that by dawn of this third day, as an angel said to women at the empty tomb, Jesus “has [already] been raised; he is not here.”
Again, here is a briefer summary of the Easter Triduum’s “three days/events-as-one day/event”:
On the Easter Triduum’s first day (Friday) Jesus died, and his death was on the same day on which he had earlier celebrated the Last Supper (at the day’s beginning after sunset), and later that same day his body was buried (as day’s end neared, that is, just before sunset);
On the Easter Triduum’s second day (Saturday) his body remained in the tomb (sunset to sunset);
On the Easter Triduum’s third day (Sunday), which began (at sunset) with his body still in the tomb, he rose from the dead (before the following dawn of that same day).
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....No Jokes Today — it’s Holy Week during which we, the Church, mourn our Crucified Savior....