The three days of the sacred triduum are the bridge connecting Lent to the 50 days of Easter. Intended to be lived as a whole, these three days: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday’s Easter Vigil are the encapsulation of the Lord’s life, death, and resurrection that we are called to embrace each day of our lives. While the liturgies of these days (while seen as one) each contain unique remembrances from our Lord’s life, they remind us that ultimately our faith is not about history. It is about God’s saving action, beyond all time, being made present for our participation. Our “triduum experience” can only be richer if we make the sacrifice to participate all three days.
Hopefully, by reflecting on what the triduum makes present for us in advance, we can more fully enter in. Even if the images (crucifixes, statues) in our parish church (excluding windows and the stations) are not veiled beginning for the fifth Sunday of Lent until the Easter Vigil Mass, we can do this in our own homes. This can help us to be more meditative as we walk with Christ the last days of his passion, our eyes not being drawn away to other objects and more inwardly contemplating Christ himself.
In the long run, we just hit what we aim at. What Friday is to every week (a little Lent) and Lent is to the entire liturgical year, Holy Week is to Lent. Decide now to keep it authentically holy, a time “set apart.” Remember those Lenten disciplines you committed to for yourself way back before Ash Wednesday? Now is the time to re-commit for the homestretch. Participating in the liturgy for Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion prepares us for the sacred triduum. The readings for Wednesday of Holy Week, (traditionally Spy Wednesday) remind us of the betrayal of Judas. If we have not already shared in the sacrament of reconciliation during Lent, the time is now.
Consider preparing for the triduum with a personal journal or notebook. Think, pray, and write down for your further reflection your own thoughts and resolutions as these days approach and then as you experience them with your family.
On Holy Thursday, we mark the institution of the holy Eucharist and the sacrament of holy orders. A family dinner wearing your “Sunday best” would be good preparation. The prayer could include a preview of the Mass readings, Exodus 12:1-20 (the Passover) and John 13:1-17 (the feet washing). Include a white tablecloth, napkins, wine, or grape juice. Items mindful of the Passover meal could be included: lamb or beef, spinach, celery, applesauce, unleavened bread, and grapes. While the oven is on, you could bake hot cross buns for Friday. Thursday is a good day to share photos and memories of first Communions and favorite memories about the priests we have known (the priests who have given us the sacraments and buried our loved ones).
Washing each other’s feet at home would come with some smiles I am sure, but could be used to emphasize our universal call to serve one another in the name of Christ. Prepare by reflecting on who we are called to serve. Who in our lives need us to be the hands, the feet, the voice of Jesus Christ?
We can prepare for our participation at the Passion of the Lord, on this day of fast and abstinence, by reflecting on how we are called each day as Col. 1:24 reminds to unite our sufferings with the cross of Christ for the good of the church. Prepare for church by naming our crosses. This includes sacrifices chosen as disciples and our personal hardships we would have never chosen. Then, give them to Jesus as we venerate the crucifix in our own home. Especially from noon to 3 p.m. (the hours of the Lord’s passion), prepare for church by staying quiet without TV, social media, or unnecessary activities.
On Holy Saturday, we can prepare for the Vigil by remembering family baptisms, godparents, godchildren, and discussing how each of us are living out our baptismal promises. Wearing something new for Easter Mass is a personal way of sharing in the baptismal garments of our catechumens.
Reflecting in advance of the Vigil and then throughout the 50 days will prepare us for the challenge of remembering that our lives of Christian discipleship are not so much a problem to be solved as a mystery to be lived. We will have “kept a Sacred triduum” if we are now better prepared, in imitation of our Risen Lord, to choose forgiveness over revenge in our relationships with others, if we are prepared to see every child of God (no matter how old or where they come from) as worthy of respect and our care, and to more fully live the sacramental gifts our Lord suffered and died to give us through his risen body, the church.
Father John Titus is pastor at pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish in Mattoon and St. Columcille Parish in Sullivan.