(Click on any of the images on this post for larger versions.)
The Paschal Triduum.
The three most important days on the Church calendar, beginning with sundown on Holy Thursday and the Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper and closing with Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday after sundown.
Three days but only one feast: a feast so great that no one day could possibly contain it.
It is the Paschal Triduum. I believe we have a long way to go in helping worshipers understand how the Triduum is Passover for us Christians. One of the many reasons I treasure the First Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation which I use on all the Sundays of Lent is this one phrase: We do this in memory of Jesus Christ, our Passover and our lasting peace... Likewise, I delight in lifting the consecrated Bread and Cup before Communion in the Triduum liturgies and saying, Christ our Passover has been sacrificed: this is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper!
I have served as a priest for nearly 38 years and each year has deepened my understanding and love for this Passover celebration which is ours in the New Covenant, sealed in the Blood of Christ which has covered the doorposts and lintels of our souls and marked us for deliverance from sin and death.
This year I was under the influence of a massive congestion that visits my head and chest every spring. This is the second time it has coincided with Holy Week. As nasty as it was, it had the salutary effect of focusing me and my energy on the Three Days. At the beginning of the week I laid low, hoping that rest would ready me for the liturgical demands ahead. Perhaps the Spirit supplies a kind of graced adrenaline for such circumstances - I know that in spite of a foggy voice and a coughing jag at the end of my Holy Thursday homily, my physical condition somehow put a keener edge on my desire to pray and lead well the prayer of the people around me. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!
Jerry Galipeau's fine blog, Gotta Sing, Gotta Pray, invites readers to mention in the combox there what moments in the Triduum had been found most telling. Allow me, here, to respond to that question - and I invite you to offer your reflections in the combox following this post.
|Washing of feet on Holy Thursday - DupontWorldMedia|
In our parish we invite anyone present to participate in the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday. Each person who comes forward to have his or her feet washed in turn washes the feet of the next person. This means that sometimes children wash a parent's or a sibling's feet, or a teen washes the feet of one of our elder parishioners. To see Christ's mandatum, his command that we do as he had shown us to do, so beautifully fulfilled is a grace for the whole assembly and I take joy especially in watching our younger members take up this work so early in their lives.
|Washing of Feet on Holy Thursday - DupontWorldMedia|
|After Eucharistic procession, Holy Thursday - DupontWorldMedia|
On Good Friday, at the Veneration of the Cross, four parishioners carry in procession a near-life-size Cross. Then in teams of two, they alternate keeping the Cross steadied as the assembly comes forward to venerate.
|Procession with the Cross, Good Friday - DupontWorldMedia|
Some come barefoot; some genuflect; some touch and "take a blessing" from the wood on which has hung our salvation; some embrace the Cross; some kiss it; some bow before it; some kneel and embrace its base... This veneration usually takes 30-40 minutes, so prayerfully do all come forward and so graciously do all allow each person the time and space to venerate. From my seat in the sanctuary, to the back of the Cross, I see the faces of those who come forward and I know the stories that many of them bring in their hearts to the Cross of Jesus. More than once I found myself weeping, knowing the suffering that was left at the foot of the Cross of the One who suffered for us.
|Veneration of the Cross, Good Friday - DupontWorldMedia|
At the end of the Veneration, the deacon and I laid this large Cross on the altar. While we waited for the Eucharist to be brought into the assembly, I spoke about the appropriateness of resting the Cross of Christ's sacrifice on the altar of sacrifice where, every Sunday, we celebrate the sacrifice by which Christ, once and for all, redeemed his people.
|Laying on of Hands at Easter Vigil - DupontWorldMedia|
At this year's Vigil we welcomed one man to full Communion with the Catholic Church but we had not catechumens for baptism. Surely, something important is missing in the Vigil liturgy when there are no baptisms to be celebrated but that did not keep us from celebrating the mother of all vigils as fully as possible, even without that sacrament which brings to life our share in the dying and rising of Christ in baptism.
|Chrismation at Easter Vigil - DupontWorldMedia|
In this past year we have experienced great growth in our choir and a new voice on the parish staff brought not only new songs but also musical settings for parts of the Vigil we had not sung before. All this brought a freshness to our Vigil that was as sweet as spring itself. Our lectors surely spent many hours preparing to proclaim the eight lessons and during the Alleluia we unfurled the banner which we had "buried" on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday.
|Resurrecting the Alleluia Banner! - DupontWorldMedia|
I left the Vigil knowing clearly that we, God's people, had with one voice prayed and sung the praises of the Risen Lord, lifting up an offering with one heart, united in the Spirit of the One whose rising we had come to celebrate.
|ALLELUIA! - DupontWorldMedia|
If you like, please share with us in the combox your own experience and reflections on the liturgies of the Paschal Triduum.
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