Why aren't the days of the Triduum Holy Days of Obligation?

I was just wondering if anyone knew why the days within the Easter Triduum(i.e., Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday) are not Holy Days of Obligation. I know Easter itself is on a Sunday and not technically a Holy Day of Obligation, since every Sunday is. It would seem to make sense for the three days before Easter to be Holy Days. The Triduum celebrates the Paschal Mystery specifically, the foundation of the Faith. These days are considered the holiest days of the year, and the liturgies are certainly the most beautiful and most inspiring out of the whole Church Year. So why aren’t the Faithful obliged to attend them? Surely the Easter Triduum is more meaningful and fundamental to the Faith than All Saints/All Souls Day, yet that is a Holy Day of Obligation. Can anyone explain the rationale behind this?

I’d say it’s because it just really isn’t practical to make them Holy Days of Obligation.

For one thing, the services of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil are really kind of a single liturgy with breaks in the middle. It just wouldn’t be right to make them separate days of obligation.

For another thing, Good Friday doesn’t have a Mass and a Day of Obligation is one for Mass attendance.

Well, that does make sense. But it also raises another question. Why is there no mass on Good Friday? If the Mass is the Sacrifice of Calvary re-presented, then when would be more appropriate for it to be celebrated than on Good Friday, the day it is being commemorated by the Universal Church? This has always confused me.

The days of the Triduum were, in fact, formerly days of obligation. But the secularisation brought about by the Reformation and modernity caused that obligation to be lifted in, IIRC, the 17th or 18th century when it became too burdensome - i.e., under the old order all days of obligation were by law also free of labor, but when other forces conspired to deprive the holy days of this protection, it was deem too onerous to oblige people who were also being forced to work on those days to observe that many solemn days and their liturgies all together.

There are also practical logistical issues-- many church buildings are not large enough to hold the entire parish at one Mass, and the Masses/services of the Triduum are permitted once-a-day only. Having four or five or six Saturday evening and Sunday morning Masses isn’t just about schedule convenience for people-- it’s about having enough room per the fire code. I don’t think any of the parishes in my diocese could actually hold the entire parish population at one time. It’s not a good reason, per se, to require or not require something, but from the practical standpoint, it does make things challenging…


A few years ago, Annunciation fell on Holy Friday.

ONLY in this case, in the Byzantine tradtion, is the Eucharistic Sacrifice celebrated.

In one sense yes. But in another sense- the Mass is a festal event- a joyous celebration if you will. It is the thanksgiving sacrifice of the Church par excellence. In the (Latin) liturgy the Church speaks of those who offer the “sacrifice of praise” (EP I) or who “offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice” (EP III) or who “celebrate this memorial of our redemption…we offer you his Body and Blood” (EP IV) The absence of the Mass shows the distraught feeling the Church on Good Friday- she mourns and does not presume to even offer the sacrifice. At one time, the majority of the days of Lent were aliturgical - they still are in many of the Eastern Churches where the Liturgy of the Presanctified is served. In the West this only survived on Good Friday.

It would make no sense because what is the OBLIGATION? To Participate in a valid Mass on the day of Obligation. Holy Thursday, Mass of the Lord’s Supper, OK, Good Friday and Holy Saturday? No, because there is NO Mass celebrated on either of these days to attend!

I, for one, would certainly support making attendance at the Triduum liturgies obligatory once again.

Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Great Vigil of Easter are the most important days in the liturgical calendar, and, in my view, are also the richest and most meaningful.

Remember that the Mass of the Lord’s Supper takes place at night, as well as the Easter Vigil. In many parishes Good Friday services also take place at night. Thus, if people are working on those days they are likely to be off by the time the liturgies start.

Furthermore, Catholics could well do with a little bit of placing their devotion and desire for worship ahead of secular thoughts. “Easter break” from school should be used to attend Church, not to go on vacation.

I can assure you that any Catholic that has not attended the Triduum liturgies has not experienced the most beautiful and solemn celebrations Holy Mother Church has to teach them.

God bless your preparation and prayer during this Holy Week,

Deacon Chris

They are Good Friday Devotions, and Devotions have always been optional, never mandatory.

Brother Rich:

I wasn’t referring to the Stations of the Cross, or some other devotion. Neither was the original poster.

The Celebration of the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday is an official liturgy, and the Church could easily make it mandatory.

The celebration consists of three parts: liturgy of the word, veneration of the cross, and holy communion. In the United States, if the size or nature of a parish or other community indicates the pastoral need for an additional liturgicial service, the local Ordinary may permit the service to be repeated later.

God bless you all,

Liturgy of the Hours is also a liturgy but nobody suggests making that mandatory.

As Bro. has said, the obligation for a holy day is that one attend MASS. Since there is NO MASS on Good Friday it would seem to be moot point.

Not to mention that the Triduum is ONE celebration. Why would the Church make only one part mandatory? It would make no sense. I suppose it could make the entire Triduum mandatory but somehow I don’t see that happening and I think that’s is as it should be. Besides, considering that Holy Days of Obligation ultimately are up to the Conferences of Bishops and in many countries there are only 2, all other having been either abrogated or moved to a Sunday, I don’t think we’d see the Triduum as a Holy Day of Obligation across the board. Let’s face it, the only HDoO we ALL share is Christmas. I don’t think there is one other that is celebrated everywhere.

Well, considering that Good Friday was mandatory for centuries, it doesn’t seem like a moot point at all. You act as if once Holy Mother Church settled into the pattern of only obliging Mass attendance She was somehow bound to that pattern for eternity.

I think it was more practical back when Catholicism was the only religion in a country, which were Theocracies. All the laws of the nation were in harmony with Church law as far as holidays, much as you see in the Islamic world today. The whole society was pretty much on the same page, except for a few Jews and Heretical groups, and these groups were usually suppressed by the government.

It’s much harder in our multi-cultural society to have obligatory days. Even Sunday obligation has become difficult for many to fulfill because many people have weekend work obligations such as restaurant workers, medical workers, police, and any other entertainment oriented job. Even devout Catholics like to eat out after church!

Good Friday is difficult because this year Spring Break does not coincide with Holy Week. Many mothers and grandmothers are in the workforce, and Good Friday Devotions are at 3 in the afternoon! It’s just not practical for many to leave their work obligations behind for Good Friday because of the pressures of modern living, as opposed to the mainly agrarian societies of our ancestors.

Not too many years ago, it was quite common for businesses to close early (around noon or 2 PM) on Good Friday - if they were even open at all. Some companies and governments still sort of offer it by way of giving employees an extra “personal day” to make up for it being a work day. If enough people just took it off out of devotion, they’d have no choice but to shut down for the day again. Often, it was a legal and company holiday - and remains so in some places. This, really, has only changed much in the last 20 years or less.

Of course, for a good reason, the Good Friday liturgies can be moved to later in the afternoon or evening - as numerous parishes already do.

In a sense, there IS a Mass on Good Friday. In the old (now extraordinary) rite, it is called the “Mass of the Presanctified Gifts.” There is no additional consecration and offering, but the Liturgy - united to the memorial of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross - might be considered something of a Mass.

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As my Pastor Msgr. calls it, Triduum are the “Holy Days of Opportunity”. Everyone who wants to be there is there.

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