The Easter Triduum and Easter itself are, I think, the most beautiful time of the liturgical year. There is so much joy, such solemnity, so much grace.
Holy Thursday has always been one of my favorite liturgies. Going to Mass at night is always exciting for me - I don't attend Mass in the evening often, so when I do it usually signifies an exciting feast or liturgical event. Holy Thursday is such a solemn evening, but with an undercurrent of joy and excitement. This is the night before Christ died, but it is also the very first Mass, the night that Christ gave Himself to us in the Eucharist. There is the joyful singing of the Gloria as all the bells are rung for the last time before the Passion of Christ begins, there is the procession through the church as the Eucharist is taken and reposed. Our church decorates the area where the Blessed Sacrament is taken to look like a garden... it's a beautiful reminder of the agony that Christ endured in the garden of Gethsemane.
Good Friday too is an absolutely beautiful service. My parish does their Passion service at 3:00 on Friday afternoon and it so still, so quiet, so solemn. I love the silence, how our choir sings as much of the music acapella as possible, how we enter in silence and leave in silence. It is so hard to leave the church and start talking again... after such a moving service I want to just be quiet for the rest of the day!
My experience with the Easter Vigil is more recent. I went once when I was about ten years old with my mom, just to see what it was like. (I wasn't too impressed then... from what I recall we didn't go outside to light the candle and the church didn't start out dark). Two years ago I attended the Vigil Mass again when friends of my family entered the Church - which added an exciting personal element to the celebration. Last year, we attended a Byzantine Rite Easter Vigil, and oh was it absolutely beautiful. Close friends of ours had recently had a baby, and so they had the baptism at the vigil. Let me tell you, the Byzantine Baptismal ceremony is incredible. This year I attended the Vigil at my home parish, and I loved it. We started outside with the lighting of the Easter candle, then processed in and it was so beautiful to see all the gently flickering candles in the dimness of the church. The Easter Vigil is so exciting, so full of joy and life.
Then, of course, there is Easter itself. Easter Mass is always wonderful - and how could it not be? Christ is alive and risen, and you can feel the energy and excitement in the Church. It's time again for singing "Alleluia" in nearly every song, time for the renewal of baptismal promises, time for celebration and joy.
What is your favorite liturgy of the Triduum/Easter? What is it you love most about this time of the liturgical year?