Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In a few short days, with the celebration of Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, we will be entering into the holiest week of the Christian year that culminates in the Paschal Triduum. During the Triduum, literally, ‘the three days,’ we enter into the heart of our faith, the mystery of the saving death and life-giving resurrection of Jesus.
The Triduum is a single solemn liturgy that begins on Holy Thursday with the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, continues the next day with Good Friday of the Lord’s Passion, followed by the Easter Vigil, “the greatest and most noble of all solemnities” and concludes with the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection on Easter Sunday.
It can’t be repeated often enough that the death and resurrection of the Lord is the good news that changes and transforms everything. The human condition which appears on Good Friday to be a dark and desperate tragedy in which sin and death are triumphant is revealed in the resurrection of Jesus to have a happy, joyous purpose beyond our wildest hope and expectation. Christ is risen and our lives and our world are changed and transformed forever. The death and resurrection of Jesus truly is the turning point of all human history.
During the Triduum, we ponder the many facets of the Paschal Mystery, both in our public worship and in devotions such as the Stations of the Cross. On Holy Thursday, we remember the great humility of Jesus and his example of service in the washing of the feet. Then we follow the Blessed Sacrament in procession to its place of repose, meditating on the Lord’s agony and arrest in the garden of Gethsemane.
On Good Friday we begin by kneeling in silence before the mystery of how Jesus, the Lamb of God, freely offered his life for the remission of our sins and the salvation of the world. We pray together for the needs of the Church and the world and then venerate the wood of the Cross, the instrument of Christ’s triumph over the power of sin and death.
During Holy Saturday, we quietly ponder the mystery of the death and burial of the Lord of Life and then, that evening, gather outside in the darkness around the new fire. In procession we follow the Paschal candle into the darkened church, where we hear the Easter Proclamation sung aloud and then in the light of the Paschal candle listen to the epic story of our salvation, beginning with the creation of the world, the exodus from Egypt and the challenging and consoling words of the prophets, all of which lead to the account of the Lord’s resurrection proclaimed in the gospel, which we acclaim with the joyful and repeated alleluia.
If we are fortunate to have among us candidates for baptism, it is at the Easter Vigil that we can see with our own eyes the Paschal Mystery we celebrate, as the Elect of God are buried in the waters of baptism to mystically die with Christ and rise to new life in him. There at the font the newly baptized and those who have come into full communion with the Catholic Church receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and are anointed with the fragrant chrism. After we have renewed our own baptismal promises, we join the newly baptized and confirmed in receiving the Lord’s Body and Blood, that sign of the living presence of the Risen Lord in the midst of his people. It is truly a blessed night!
At the Masses of Easter Sunday, we renew our baptismal promises and are sprinkled with holy water as a reminder of our life in Christ. This concludes the Triduum and marks the beginning of the Easter Octave, during which the Church continues to celebrate Easter with the greatest solemnity for eight days.
Because the Triduum is the very center and heart of the liturgical year, I invite you and your family to make time to participate in the liturgies and devotions of the three days. We all live busy lives with many demands on our time but if possible, please endeavor to give these three days priority. If you haven’t yet experienced the beauty and power of the Easter Vigil, consider going to the vigil this year in your parish.
May this most sacred time of Holy Week and Easter bring you and your family every grace and blessing.
Sincerely in Christ,
Bishop Andrew Bellisario, C.M.