Today we enter into three of the most beautiful days of the liturgical year: the Triduum. During these three days, the regular rhythm of the liturgy – our daily Mass times – are disrupted so that our whole attention is focused on the events we commemorate.
This Holy Week began on Palm Sunday, when we accompanied Jesus on his entry into Jerusalem, with hosannas and waving of palms. The Triduum itself begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper this evening, when we are drawn into the depths of the New Commandment, as Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, giving us an example to follow and showing what it means to truly love and serve others. Immediately after this act of humble love, Jesus offers the Passover meal, establishing the New and Everlasting Covenant and giving himself to us so that we are empowered by his grace to follow this New Commandment of love.
Note that this Mass has no real “ending” or dismissal. The Triduum continues, but the Mass offered on this night is the last Mass until the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. We “fast” from the liturgy as a way to immerse ourselves in the events we are remembering.
The altar is stripped bare and the Blessed Sacrament transferred in a procession, lit by candles and reverenced by incense, to another place as we follow Jesus into the Garden of Gethsemane and watch and pray with him as he is betrayed and arrested. Adoration may take place for some time at this place of “repose,” where we meditate on the Passion now begun, and Jesus’ acceptance of the Father’s will even unto death, death on a cross.
On Good Friday there is no celebration of sacraments, except Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick. Instead, there is a liturgy of the Passion of the Lord on the bare altar. The setting evokes in us a sense of emptiness and longing.
Hopefully, our 40 days of Lenten practices and penances have prepared us well for these holy days. These three days are the climax of the year, and we are in a quiet darkness, keeping vigil before we celebrate resurrection even longer: 50 days.
In our busy world, I pray we are all able to slow down and be fully present to what the Church offers us during these days so that we are able to open ourselves fully to the glorious joy of Easter!
Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including Deacon Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.