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Lesson Twelve: The Great Triduum

[Adapted slightly from instructions on the Great Triduum prepared by an pseudonymous rubricist, "Anglican Jedi," whose work is greatly appreciated.]

The Great Triduum commences with the Office of Matins of Maundy Thursday, anticipated on the evening of Wednesday in Holy Week.  The Triduum ends with None of Holy Saturday.  During this period, no feast may be celebrated or commemorated.

The Office of the Great Triduum, like the Office of the Dead, reflects the Office as it was in the earliest days of its development.

While at first glance, the Offices of the Sacred Triduum may seem simpler than normal, due to the lack of many of the "bells and whistles," it is in fact imperative that an understanding of the rubrics for the Triduum be mastered.

Issues Common to the Entire Triduum 

Elements Omitted from the Office

        -   The Opening Versicles
        -   The Invitatory
        -   Hymns
        -   Gloria Patri
        -   Brief Chapters
        -   Responsories
        -   The Salutation
        -   The Closing Versicles
        -   The Marian Antiphons


The Collect

The Collect during the Triduum is the same for every Office, except for the ending, which is said silently by the Officiant.

Psalm 51

This psalm is said after the Benedictus at Lauds of Maundy Thursday, and is repeated in every Office until and including None of Holy Saturday.

Psalm 51 is said with its own antiphon, "Christ for our sake, etc.," which is made longer with each of the three days.

Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday is the Feast of the Institution of the Eucharist, though this is not really emphasized in the day's office.

Matins and Lauds ("Tenebrae")

The Office is straight from the Proper (C288-303), and is almost a stripped-down version of the ordinary office, until the Benedictus.

When said solemnly and in choir, the Office is known asTenebrae, whose hallmark is the extinguishing of fifteen candles.

After the beginning of the Benedictus, the altar Candles are extinguished; after the conclusion, the last candle on the candlestick is removed, and hidden behind the altar, to be replaced after a loud noise and the Collect.

Psalm 51 is said, with its antiphon, "Christ for our sake, etc."  On Maundy Thursday, the antiphon is said in its shortest form.

After the Psalm and antiphon are said, the Collect of the Triduum is said, with ending said silent by the celebrant.

The Other Hours

At Prime, the Psalms of "Prime 1" of Sunday are said.  The Martyrology is omitted, as is everything following, until the end of the capitular office.


On this day, when the Office is said in choir, Vespers is said after the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose, and before the Maundy.

Vespers begins immediately after the Dual Prayer, with its Psalms, followed by the Magnificat and Psalm 51 and so forth, as at Lauds.

Compline begins with the Confession and Absolution, followed by the Psalms, after which is said Nunc Dimittis is said, followed by Psalm 51 and so forth, as at Lauds.

Good Friday


The Office is said as in the proper, with much of the same rubrics as for Maundy Thursday.

The Mass of the Presanctified follows Sext on Good Friday.

The Holy Sabbath

The Office is said as on the previous two days, except as below.

At Lauds, the Psalms are those of "Lauds 2" of Saturday, except for the Canticle, which is in the proper.

At Prime through None, the Office is identical to that of Maundy Thursday.

Strictly speaking, there is no full I Vespers of Easter; Rather, it is the concluding rite of the Easter Vigil, and is set forth in the Proper.

Compline is said as usual through the year, except the Psalms, which are of Sunday, are said without antiphon.

From I Vespers of Easter onward throughout Eastertide, there is no kneeling in any of the Office, save during the Prayers Before and After the Office.

Concluding Thoughts

Careful attention should be paid to the rubrics on C288.  They provide explanation of the peculiarities of the Office, and may be referred to during the Triduum as often as needed.

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