Keeping The Paschal Triduum
(All quotes and directives are taken from the Sacramentary)Palm Sunday marks the beginning of the days we call Holy Week which culminate in the "Triduum", the Latin word for "three days." These Three Days embody the whole meaning of Christian life. We process in with palms to welcome our King. The Passion narrative stirs up a multitude of feelings: shame for sin, guilt for our betrayals, joy in the gift of Eucharist, gratitude for the mystery of redemption. Life demands death; love requires self-donation; mercy necessitates divine compassion.
HOLY THURSDAY - EVENING MASS OF THE LORD’S SUPPER
Holy Thursday is the day that God’s love is ritualized in a unique way. Jesus not only shares the intimacy of a meal, a last meal with his disciples, but he gives them a simple, clear example of what discipleship is all about: service. Washing one another’s feet, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked—here is the core of the Eucharist, our great miracle of love. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is traditionally the only Mass celebrated in the parishes on this day. (The Chrism Mass, when celebrated on Holy Thursday is celebrated at the Cathedral) The Mass takes place in the evening with the "full participation of the whole local community and with all priests and clergy exercising their ministry." During the singing of the Gloria the church bells ring and then remain silent until the Easter Vigil. It is appropriate also for all but the most necessary musical accompaniment be refrained from during this time. After Communion the Eucharist for Good Friday is left in the ciborium on the altar. At the conclusion of Mass, the Blessed Sacrament is carried in procession through the church, accompanied by a cross bearer, candles and incense, to the place of repository. After the repository is closed the altar is stripped and crosses removed or covered. The faithful are encouraged to spend some time in adoration which should conclude by eleven o’clock.
"According to the Church’s ancient tradition, the sacraments are not celebrated today or tomorrow." Good Friday’s readings portray what the day is all about the death of the king whose destiny is being fulfilled and whose hour of glory is the cross. In reading the account of the mystery of redemption, our faith is put to the test. Salvation coming through the cross? Life recovered through death? Our God crucified? The veneration of the cross is a powerful part of today’s ritual. It is a sign of love; of triumph; of our daily struggles to live this life of Christ. The altar is bare and without cross or candles. The celebration of the Lord’s Passion normally takes place in the afternoon. After the solemn reading of the Lord’s Passion, the deacon carries the cross from the door of the church, stopping three times to sing "this is the wood of the cross...." The cross and candles are placed in the entrance of the sanctuary for veneration. Holy Communion follows the veneration of the cross. All depart in silence.
On Holy Saturday, the Church waits in silent vigil at the Lord’s Tomb. Communion may be given only as Viaticum. "The Easter Vigil is arranged in four parts: a) a brief service of light; b) the Liturgy of the Word when the Church meditates on all the wonderful things God has done for his people from the beginning; c) the Liturgy of Baptism, when new members of the Church are reborn as the day of resurrection approaches; d) the Liturgy of the Eucharist..." The celebration of Easter Vigil ("the mother of all vigils") takes place at night - after nightfall and before daybreak. ‘Candles should be prepared for all who take part in the Vigil.’ Holy Saturday is the day we have been leading up to for all of Lent. The Church is darkened; a fire is kindled, the Easter candle is carried in procession into the darkness and our candles are lit. Our attention is focused on the readings that tell of our roots. At this liturgy, we celebrate new life in Christ in age-old symbols: new fire, new light, new water and biblical words about creation and recreation. Easter is a celebration of the Lord’s resurrection and ours. It is a feast of you and me, the baptized, in union with Him who gives us life. We welcome the new members into this wonderful Church of ours. Christ is the Light of the world. We must arise and go with the risen Lord toward the fullness of light and peace.
Easter Sunday is the feast, which recognizes that Jesus’ gift of self to the Father was received, and that He and the Father are one. It is an acknowledgment that God is gathering those who share in the bread and the cup. It is a kingdom feast. We renew our baptismal promises and say: Yes, I believe, help my unbelief. For Catholics, these are the "High Holy Days" of our faith. Little unnecessary work should be done during the Triduum. We wait in silence as the Divine Mysteries unfold for us through these Liturgies. It is recommended that all the faith attend the services of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil, so that come Easter morning we may truly rejoice in the fulfillment of Salvation History.