Preparing for the Most Sacred Triduum
by Fr. James Netusil, associate pastor of Saint Cecilia Cathedral
My brothers and sisters in Christ, we have now entered into the most glorious week of the Church year. With the passing of Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord, we spend these last few days preparing for what will be the culmination of our Lenten pilgrimage – the Sacred Triduum. The Triduum (from the latin tres dies, “three days”) envelopes us in the magnificent mystery of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. This mystery is aptly called “the Paschal Mystery”, for it is the passing over from death to life of Jesus himself, he who is the sacrificial lamb slaughtered in atonement for our sins.
These three days are well known to us, for they constitute three of the most important events in the history of the world. In the Mass of Holy Thursday, we commemorate the institution of the Most Holy Eucharist as we recall the Last Supper in which Christ not only gave us his Most Precious Body and Blood as a memorial of what was to come on Calvary, but also instituted the sacred priesthood through which sins could be forgiven and the Eucharist might be forever celebrated.
In the Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday we recall the tremendous suffering which Christ endured at the hands of his people, and which would accomplish the salvation of his people. Thus, when we arrive at the Great Solemnity of the Easter Vigil, we have recognized the undeniable connection between the offering of Christ’s Body and Blood at the Last Supper, and the manifestation of that offering on the hill of Calvary. Now, in this Easter Solemnity, we rejoice with full heart, mind and voice that Christ, our Savior, the Incarnate Word and Lamb of God, has conquered death and has opened for us and for all the gates of heaven. By doing so, he has brought the possibility of salvation for all men and women to bear against the tragedy of man’s fall caused by the influence of Satan, who wishes nothing more now than that we deny the triumph of Christ. But it is an undeniable victory, and the prince of darkness is defeated and denied.
We should take these last few days before the Triduum to reflect on how to make the most of our celebration of these holy mysteries. To this end, I offer you some thoughts for reflection:
Christ offered himself Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity so that we might have an everlasting remembrance of his sacrifice, and the salvation that sacrifice made possible. When we look at the Body and Blood of Christ, what is it we see? What is it we believe? In the Last Supper, what has Christ promised to me as his beloved son or daughter? What offering do I make for His sake?
Jesus, a man like us in all things but sin, a man who felt emotions, a man who felt pain, was betrayed by a disillusioned follower, abandoned by his disciples (the very men whom he called “brother”), denied by the man he chose to lead his Church, and tortured by men whose only job was to humiliate and cause him pain. He was forced to bear the instrument of his own death, and was violently nailed to its wood, stripped of his clothing and left to hang there, between heaven and earth, looking down on a world which had abandoned him into the hands of a violent mob. His mother stands there with John, sobbing in despair at the sight of her son. We are thrust there, in the midst of it all – we simply cannot stand at a distance.
Do I understand what Jesus has done for me? Do I accept this gift with humility and gratitude? In His crucifixion, can I find the courage I need to strive for holiness, to be faithful to God and the Church? How much am I willing to sacrifice for others? What crosses am I willing to bear?
If it seems to you like our world is dying, I ask you to consider our world in the context of the Resurrection of Christ. If we simply stop at Good Friday, then all we know is pain and death. But when we see Good Friday in the light of Easter, we know there is far more than suffering and dying. We know that with the Risen Christ, all things are restored, for we have traveled from death to new life, and that new life for us is salvation – eternal life in the love of the Trinity.
It is this love which is the font of forgiveness that allows for the forgiveness of sins. St. Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain.” It is this Easter day which is the capstone for salvation history – from the moment of the Original Sin to this moment, God has planned and brought about everything in Christ Jesus so that you might have everlasting life. On this day and all days, let your very spirit cry out in joy, “for God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life!”
This is the faith we profess in Christ Jesus our Lord. Alleluia!