This past week I celebrated the Triduum for the 35th time as an ordained minister. And I'm pleased to tell you that I think I'm finally getting the hang of it!
For the first five years of ministry as a presbyter, I was in a parish with four full time priests which meant that presiding at Triduum liturgies was divided among us. In 1978 I went to Notre Dame for a graduate program in liturgical studies and worked as chaplain at Morrissey Manor, a men's residence hall on campus. Many students did not leave campus for Easter so we decided to celebrate the Triduum at Morrissey. This was the first time I presided and preached at all three liturgies and I realized then that this was certainly what the Triduum expects and needs: one presider for the one feast that spreads itself over three days. Do we not describe the Triduum as one feast that begins with the entrance song at the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper on Thursday and ends with the blessing and dismissal at the Easter Vigil. (I would still hold out for the Triduum not concluding before Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday - but I'll address that in a subsequent post.)
Being the sole presider at Morrissey for four years, I returned to a campus assignment in Boston where once again, presidency at the Triduum was a shared ministry (between myself and the pastor of the campus parish). It would be another nine years before I found myself in a pastoral situation (Concord) where there was no choice to be made because I was the only priest in the parish community. For 15 years now I have had this experience and my delight in it far outweighs any burden it creates. I also believe that it benefits the assembly when one presider serves to link the major moments of Triduum as one.
The question of "splitting up the Triduum" with regard to presiders is being resolved by default as more and more rare are the parishes with more than one priest assigned. (Remember: in my first parish assignment there were three other priests assigned full time to that community.) Still, the question of preaching at the Triduum will remain as the number of deacons increases. While the homilies at the three liturgies need not be explicitly connected, clear threads of continuity would be surprising only by their absence and certainly contribute to the assembly's understanding and appreciation of the whole Paschal feast. For this reason I have not invited a deacon to preach at one or more of the Triduum liturgies, although I know this happens in many parishes where deacons are assigned.
It would be interesting to hear from readers outside my own parish whose experience of Triduum presiding and preaching is the same or other than what I have described as my own practice. (Perhaps this post will tease into the combox some of my ordained readers who have so far remained uncharacteristically silent.)
More reflections to follow during this week...