Sharing at table with family and friends as the Great Mystery of Holy Week unfolds

“From Holy Thursday evening until the great Vigil in the night between Holy Saturday and Easter, the catechumens and the baptized fast and pray and await the celebration of baptism. Any meals are very simple.” Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, “At Table During the Easter Triduum”

Lent ends quietly each year on Holy Thursday evening as the Church moves into the Three Days of the Pascal Triduum

Lois Rogers readies a variety of foods for Lent and Holy Week, including warm lentil salad for Holy Thursday, pictured at right.

Lois Rogers readies a variety of foods for Lent and Holy Week, including warm lentil salad for Holy Thursday, pictured at right.

often called the Easter Triduum or simply, the Triduum consisting of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday.

The Triduum celebrates the heart of our faith, salvation, and redemption: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is on Holy Thursday, that we commemorate the Institution of the Eucharist (the “Sacrament of Sacraments). On Good Friday, we remember his Passion, crucifixion and death, on Holy Saturday, his descent to the dead and on Sunday, his glorious Resurrection.

Starting with Advent this year, I’ve been scouring recipe pages that reflect the great universal nature of the Church and finding treasures along the way. Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday and Good Friday are rich beyond belief in custom and cuisine.

Holy Thursday goes by many names around the world, from “Green Thursday” in German-speaking and Slavic countries drawn from an old German word “grunen” (to mourn) which became green; to pure, clean or “shere” Thursday which emphasizes the ancient tradition of preparing for Easter with major housecleaning and bathing to Holy or Great Thursday (Jueves Santo in Spanish).

This important, complex and profound day celebrates the institution of the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Jesus Christ and the institution of the sacrament of the priesthood.

Culinary observances of the day are delightfully legion around the world according to a variety of sites on the Internet. In some Latin countries, sugared almonds are the treat of the day. In countries where the day is known as “Green Thursday,” it’s the tradition to bring that color to the table with a soup of green herbs, a bowl of spinach with boiled or fried eggs and meat with dishes of various green salads.

Vegetables and herbs eaten on this day are thought by many to convey health to those who consume them and because I became enamored of Mexican recipes when writing Keeping the Feast during Advent, I was drawn to the same recipe well for Holy Thursday with a warm salad that blends greens (parsley) with lentils and an assortment of herbs, spices and a red pepper.

The salad can be served warm or cold but on the rainy, damp evening that friends joined in for a “tasting” and photo taking for all of the Holy Week dishes for Keeping the feast, it seemed right to serve them warmed up. My friends, Juta and Pat, enjoyed the zesty nature and color of the dish.

Warm Lentil Salad for Holy Thursday


– 1 can (15.5 ounce) lentils – I used Goya premium – drained and rinsed

– 1 teaspoon kosher salt
– 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
– 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
– 2 Tablespoons Jerez vinegar*
– 1 sweet, medium onion, finely diced
– 2 garlic cloves, minced
– 2 Tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
– 2 Tablespoons chives, finely chopped

– 1 medium red bell pepper, finely diced.


Toast the cumin seeds until they become fragrant (2 or 3 minutes) in a small, dry skillet over medium heat. In a large skillet, combine the lentils, oil, vinegar, onion, garlic, parsley, chives, red pepper and toasted cumin seeds and stir to blend. This dish can be served warm or chilled.

*Recipe Note for Warm Lentil Salad:  Jerez vinegar is sweet sherry vinegar from Spain and said to be a wonderful ingredient but it’s hard to find. Rice wine vinegar – available at most supermarkets – is considered the most acceptable substitute and since I always have some in the cupboard, it’s what I used. Champagne vinegar, white wine or red wine vinegar were also recommended by food writers on the internet.

Good Friday

Growing up, Good Friday, a day of fast and abstinence, was taken very seriously in our childhood home. It was a day off from school but one when religious observances trumped all. We couldn’t go to the movies in the little Walter Reade theater known as the Arnold downtown and frankly, Dad frowned on frivolities of any kind.

Dinner was a light meal, usually featuring pan fried fish and maybe some stewed tomatoes – one of Mom’s favorite vegetables. I remember that we never got to indulge in Hot Cross Buns on that day as our little Protestant friends did. I think there was maybe just a hint of a suspicion that they were some kind of suspect Protestant food and thus to be avoided.

Good Friday Struwen Pancakes

Good Friday Struwen Pancakes

Living now in a community that is mainly Orthodox Jewish, I can liken my parents’ self imposed restrictions of Good Friday to some – but far from all of the traditions I see observed on Saturdays including long family walks beside the water (we lived very close to the banks of Raritan Bay) and lots of family togetherness.

In my house even now, Good Friday is relatively the same. I’ll be attending church and am especially looking forward to attending “Living Stations of the Cross” with the youth group from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Whiting on Friday night.

While keeping to fast and abstinence, I’m allowing myself a food treat though – which again reflects by quest to find the culinary treasures of the Church Universal. No, it won’t be Hot Cross Buns but it will be a German yeast pancake called Struwen which is a popular Good Friday lunch in some regions of Germany.

This pancake, served fresh from the frying pan is said to represent the “Gebildrot” or sponge that was used to give Jesus a drink of sour wine as he hung on the Cross.

Good Friday Struwen Pancakes


– 2 cups flour

– 1 ½ teaspoon instant yeast

– 2 tablespoons sugar

– ¼ teaspoon salt

– ¾ cup lukewarm milk

– ½ cup raisins

– 1 egg

– zest of one small lemon

– Light vegetable oil for frying, powdered sugar for dusting, cinnamon applesauce as a lavish garnish on top

Directions: Mix all the ingredients except for the raisins and oil in a bowl until a thick batter forms, then add the raisins and stir. Let the batter rise for one hour in a warm spot. Heat about ¼ inch of oil in a large skillet and then place enough dough in the oil to form a large cake, about 3 to 4 inches in diameter. Flatten a bit if you like and fry it on medium heat until golden brown, then flip to the other side. Drain on paper towels and serve warm with powdered sugar and applesauce with cinnamon.

Table Blessing for Holy Thursday:

Lord Jesus Christ, in your ardent love for Your apostles You desired to share the Passover meal with them on the night before You suffered. During the course of that meal, You instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist where You offered to us Your own Body and Blood as bread and wine to nourish our souls. Send Your blessings upon this table and all those who partake of it. Nourish us with the Bread of Life, until the day we are called to the banquet of eternal life.
Amen. (Byzantine Matins)

Table Blessing for Good Friday:


Leader: Christ for our sake became obedient unto death, even to death on a cross. Let us worship him and say: We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.

ALL: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Leader: Lord Jesus, it is right that we should glory in your cross, for you bring us life, salvation, and resurrection. Draw us closer to you at this table, and let us share in your passing-over from death to life, both now and for ever.

ALL: Amen.


Leader: Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, for dying on the cross so that all might receive the life that never ends. Give us grateful hearts for the life you poured out for us, for the suffering that takes our sin away. Glory and praise to you, Lord, both now and forever.

ALL: Amen.

Prayer Source: Prayers at Meals by Michael Kwatera, O.S.B. and Dietrich Reinhart, O.S.B., The Liturgical Press


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