One of the first annual events of the Christian year, after the celebration of the resurrection on every Lord’s Day, was a commemoration of Christ’s dying and rising at Easter. Over the years, one day was split into three different rituals to remember the Last Supper and New Commandment (Maundy Thursday), the Crucifixion (Good Friday) and the struggle to make meaning of the cross in light of the whole of salvation history (the Great Vigil) — all culminating in Easter at day break.
What was originally one annual service remembering the Lord’s death and resurrection became split into separate services in order to pay closer attention to the significant details of Christ’s death and resurrection. These were considered to be part of one salvific activity of God and thus celebrated as such without a benediction until the end of the service with the Easter announcement that “Christ is risen!”
The Three Days or Triduum (Maundy Thursday at sundown through sundown of Easter) are the most solemn of the church year. The whole church’s participation is encouraged in this time of great significance for all who would be formed in the Christian faith, especially catechumens. The Great Vigil of Easter was the time set aside for the annual baptism of new Christians, coinciding with the eucharistic dawning of God’s reign in the risen Lord Jesus Christ.