Paschal Triduum

We began Holy Week with the Church throughout the world with Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday) at which time we once again used Fair Trade eco-palms. On Tuesday I went to the Chrism Mass for the Diocese of Raleigh (displaced from its normal Thursday because of the geographic size of our diocese and the impossibility to do it all to on Thursday). In the evening, I gave the monthly Spirits and Wisdom talk to the young adult group of the Diocese on the topic of Triduum, Salvation History, and the Paschal Mystery.

The Triduum—the three-day liturgy celebrating the Paschal Mystery—begins at sundown on Holy Thursday evening with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Lent is ended, the Triduum begins. At this Mass the consecrated oils—the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of the Catechumens, and the Sacred Chrism—are presented. Then, following the Liturgy of the Word, the presider washes the feet of twelve members of the assembly in what is known as the mandatum, the new commandment to love another as Christ has loved us. Departing in silence after the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the community was invited to come together again for Morning Prayer on Good Friday. This day of remembrance of Christ’s passion and death also includes the noon Stations of the Cross (see the cover story from the Chapel Hill News) and has as its primary liturgical action the Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion at three in the afternoon. The liturgy is marked by the ten universal intercessions, the starkness of the liturgy, and the presentation of the Cross for veneration by the faithful. This first day of Triduum comes to a somber close with sundown.

From sundown on Good Friday to sundown on Holy Saturday, there is liturgical emptiness, apart from the Liturgy of the Hours (Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer). Holy Saturday is, however, a day of preparation for the elect to be baptized that night, a time to decorate the church, and when the final preparations for the Easter Vigil liturgy are undertaken. With the elect we did a retreat focusing on their names and the significance of names in salvation history. This is an adaptation of the rite for giving a new name outlined in the RCIA and always brings powerful insights into the challenges of growing into our given names.

As the Easter fire is lit, it pierces the darkness and marks the beginning of the third day of the Triduum with the Easter Vigil. This is the night when Jesus broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave. After lighting the enormous new Paschal Candle from the fire, we process following the pillar of light, the light of Christ, into the dark church where we listen to the unfolding of salvation history through God’s creation of the world, the covenant established with Abraham, the covenant God made with the chosen people of Israel whom he rescues from slavery, and the promise of a messiah in the Davidic line. And finally, with the proclamation of the Gloria, the darkness is shattered, the lights are turned on, and flowers are carried into the sanctuary in splendor. The Epistle and Gospel are proclaimed announcing Christ’s resurrection and our participation in it through baptism, we invoke the holy men and women who have come before us in the Litany of the Saints, then we baptize the elect. We baptized thirteen people, two of whom were adult catechumens with whom I have been working for nearly two years, so it was wonderful to see them reborn to new life, emerge from the waters and clothed in radiant white, be given the light of Christ, then confirmed with the sacred chrism poured forth from the horn. Following the assembly’s coming to the water to renew their own baptismal promises, the Mass continued as normal and concluded with a reception. Between both joyous celebration and the subsequent setting up the church for the following morning’s four liturgies, for which we had put out an additional 400 folding chairs to accommodate the throngs that come for Easter Sunday, Michelle and I did not get home until nearly 2AM. After the Easter Sunday morning Mass, I came home, took a nap, then we had some folks over for desserts and drinks. And before going to bed, I rang in and prayed the official ending of the Triduum: Evening Prayer of Easter Sunday in our oratory. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad, alleluia!

Make sure to check out our Triduum program and photos from the three-day liturgy. Χριστος ανεστι! αλιθος ανεστι! Resurrexit Sicut Dixit! Alleluia, alleluia! Christ is risen. Alleluia, alleluia!

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