Simply defined, The Three Days (Triduum in Latin) are the three days of Holy Week which focus intensely on Christ’s passage from death to life: Maundy Thursday evening through Easter evening.
The keeping of The Three Days has its roots in springtime rituals and in the Jewish celebration of the Passover. The Jewish people observed the passage from winter to spring by slaughtering a lamb and sharing a meal. This meal recalled the saving power of God and their thankfulness not only to have survived winter, but to have been freed from slavery.
Christians layered onto this practice the observation of the death and resurrection of another lamb, Christ, the Lamb of God. The date for this observation coincided with the Jewish Passover.
In the second and third centuries, this festival continued to evolve. Pascha (from the Greek, meaning “passage,” as in Christ’s passage from death to new life) became not only linked to the Passover as described in Exodus, but also the to waters of Baptism. Individuals or families were baptized at this time of the year. Thus what began as a Jewish celebration of the Passover became an annual celebration of the Resurrection (see Keeping Time: the Church’s Years, by Gail Ramshaw and Mons Teig, page 94).
This annual celebration had become a three day observance by the fourth century. After a period of preparation, Christians were welcomed into the church through baptism at the Vigil of Easter. Although Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and The Vigil were observed on three days, the event was regarded as one ritual with a dismissal given only at the Easter Vigil.
Over time, the practice of keeping The Three Days waned and other Holy Week rituals developed. Only in the twentieth century has the church witnessed a renewal of this feast.
Some Lutheran congregations have an established practice of keeping The Three Days while others have only begun to learn about the practice. ELW is the first Lutheran worship book to include the service. (LBW included this in the Ministers Desk Edition only). Introducing The Three Days into an assembly’s life takes careful planning and preparation as well as education, especially because the involvement of congregational members in leading, music, reading, art, and other roles greatly enriches the keeping of The Three Days. See the Worship Guidebook for Lent and the Three Days for additional insights, images, and practical tips to help deepen your congregation’s worship life during the days from Ash Wednesday to Easter.