Today begins the Paschal Triduum, three days that begin with the liturgy on the evening of Maundy Thursday, reach their high point in the Easter Vigil, and close with evening prayer on Easter Sunday.
During the Triduum we recall the passion, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as portrayed in the canonical Gospels.
Not all Christian traditions observe these days, but they are an integral part of the journey to Easter and certainly make the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday much more significant after having suffered with him through his Crucifixion.
When the secular world brings Christmas stuff out before Halloween, I am not bothered because it just means we can look forward even sooner to the birth of Jesus. But the arrival of Easter chickens and bunnies anytime before Easter bothers me terribly. And Easter egg hunts on Maundy Thursday really trouble me. One year when they were scheduled and I spoke up, the response was "we don't do Maundy Thursday in our church." But Jesus did, I thought.
The night before he died,
Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.
John 13. 1 - 17
And so on this day, Christians around the world will wash each other's feet; some will be easier to wash than others. The posture of kneeling at a stranger's feet is humbling beyond belief, and then touching those feet...whew.
But we do this every year, just as we observe the 40 days and 40 nights Jesus spent in the wilderness, just as we pause for three hours on Good Friday and struggle mightily to remember why we call this day good.
And these three days are not complete until we come to the Easter Vigil at dawn on Sunday morning, when we shout ALLELUIA for the first time in 40 days, and all the lights come on and the candles blaze, and we remember why we struggled so and how sure we are of our salvation at the foot of the cross and the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ...and the death of death and the birth of eternal life.