April 9, 2009

Preparing for the Easter Triduum

Today, Holy Thursday, is the first day of the Easter Triduum - the three days that mark the suffering, death, and Resurrection of our Lord. One thing I just learned is that the liturgies from Holy Thursday thru Easter Vigil are actually ONE liturgy that starts with Holy Thursday Mass and ends on Easter Vigil. This is why there is no procession out on Holy Thursday and no procession in or out on Good Friday. So cool! Every time I learn more about how the Catholic Church does something, I am more in awe at her wisdom and how Christ conveys such deep spiritual truths through the rituals she possesses. I just feel bad for those who think the Church is a bunch of rules and old men telling us what to do for the heck of it. If only everyone could experience the beauty and awesomeness of being Catholic and receiving Christ at Mass!

Other interesting tidbits about the Easter Triduum:

~Holy Thursday is, in some ways, the last day for many things. The Easter candle is not used, the holy water is removed from the font(s), and the chrism oil will be replaced at the Easter Vigil with new oil blessed at the Chrism Mass by the diocesan bishop. The reserved Eucharist in the tabernacle must be consumed (and the tabernacle empty) prior to the start of the Holy Thursday liturgy

~On Holy Thursday we celebrate Jesus washing the feet of His disciples and, more importantly, the institution of the Eucharist - through Jesus saying "This is my body, given up for you..."

~There is no formal ending to the Holy Thursday liturgy (closing prayer or song) because it continues with the Good Friday liturgy. Mass concludes with a procession of the Blessed Sacrament to a separate chapel (sometimes referred to as the ‘chapel of repose’) or another sacred space. This procession is led by the priest, a cross bearer, and accompanied by candles and incense. This action symbolizes Jesus' walk to the Garden of Gethsemane

~The congregation then stays for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament because, on this night, Jesus asked of His disciples: "Will you not spend one hour with me?" He asks us to pray with Him (literally, in the Eucharist) so that we "might not undergo the test"

~Meanwhile, the altar in the church is stripped. The holy water is removed from all the fonts, to be refilled with water blessed at the Easter Vigil, and the tabernacle is left empty

~On Good Friday we remember the death of Jesus and the sacrifice he made for us on the cross. This is the one day of the whole year when the Church does not celebrate Mass—although that doesn’t mean we don’t go to Church. There is no consecration of the Eucharist on Good Friday.

~The liturgy is called either the Solemn Liturgy or the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion. It is one of the most solemn, quiet days of the church as we remember the Lord’s crucifixion.

~There is no opening song or procession because we are still within the Triduum liturgy that began the night before with the Holy Thursday liturgy, and it will end without song or procession because we will complete the liturgy at the Easter Vigil.

~On Good Friday we also venerate the cross. Everyone comes forward to kiss the cross or genuflect before it as a sign of reverence.

~Since we do not consecrate the Eucharist on Good Friday, the priest will retrieve the Eucharist from the chapel space where it was placed the night before for distribution to the congregation. After communion, the liturgy ends simply.

~The Easter Vigil is celebrated after sunset on Holy Saturday. It is the liturgical celebration that completes the Triduum, and it transforms the church from a barren and quiet space into a celebration of life. It is one of the most dramatic and powerful liturgies we celebrate as a church.

~Everything is new at the Easter Vigil liturgy—the candle is new, the chrism oil is new, and the Eucharist will be consecrated again

Michael, Avila and I will be attending services throughout the Triduum and Avila and I have been scaling back and preparing for Christ's death and Resurrection all week. We don't play any music in the car or at home, we watch even less TV, we aren't lighting any candles during the day, and we will be starting the Divine Mercy Novena tomorrow as a family. May God prepare your hearts as well as our as we enter this most sacred time.

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