Last updated on January 9, 2021
The Paschal Mystery
How important is the Paschal Mystery to the Church? “The Church was born of the paschal mystery. For this very reason the Eucharist, which is in an outstanding way the sacrament of the paschal mystery, stands at the centre of the Church’s life,” wrote John Paul II in his 2003 Encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia.
Let’s review what the Paschal Mystery is: It’s the Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We proclaim it every time we say the Nicene Creed. There are three parts.
- “For our sake, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death, and was buried,” (Passion and Death)
- “and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (Resurrection)
- “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.” (Ascension)
Sacred Triduum or Three Days
Most of the events of the Paschal Mystery are celebrated over three days, beginning with the Passover Meal on Holy Thursday, Christ’s suffering, death, and burial on Good Friday and Holy Saturday concluding with our Lord’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Isn’t that four days? It is if we think of days starting at midnight, so we get Thursday to Sunday as four. But the events of Christ’s Passion, Passover meal to burial took place over 24 hours. Check biblical scholar, Felix Just’s detailed description here. So the Mass of the Lord’s Supper is the beginning of the first 24 hours, with the crucifixion and burial on Good Friday, the closing events of the first 24 hours.
During the second 24 hours, we wait and pray as Jesus’ body lies in the tomb. That was the Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest. Then, as the Nicene Creed states: “…and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” That’s Sunday. There we have the Triduum, Latin for three days.
Even though we enter into three time-separated liturgical events of the Paschal Mystery, they comprise one glorious festival lasting three days: Holy Thursday (the Mass of the Lord’s Supper), Good Friday and Holy Saturday (Crucifixion and burial), concluding with Resurrection Sunday. Day three begins with Easter Vigil and ends with Resurrection Sundays’ evening prayer.
The Sacred Triduum is the heart and pulse of the Liturgical Year and the Easter Vigil the greatest celebration of the year where we experience the crowning point, the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Jesus gave his Body and Blood Soul and Divinity conceived in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit in atonement for our sins. Crushed on the cross, we have been healed and set free from the curse of sin.
The Importance of The Eucharist
This saving action began at the Passover meal on Holy Thursday where Jesus gave us His Body and Blood to eat and drink in the form of bread and wine, reaching its fulfillment on Calvary.
Continuing his teaching on the Eucharist, John Paul II, in Ecclesia de Eucharistia, wrote: The Eucharistic Sacrifice makes present not only the mystery of the Saviour’s passion and death, but also the mystery of the resurrection which crowned his sacrifice.
Just as the Paschal Mystery stands at the centre and pinnacle of the Liturgical Calendar, it moreover is the focal point of everyone’s life of prayer. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the sacramental re-presentation of Christ’s sacrifice and “the sacrament of the Paschal mystery” is, therefore, the surest way we can draw close to Christ.