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Parsch on The Sacred Triduum

by pastorjuhl ~ March 23rd, 2010

The three last days of Holy Week are often called the Sacred Triduum (Triduum Sacrum). This period may be considered from a threefold viewpoint: a) first, these days bring to a climax and to a conclusion our preparation for Easter. The Church is, as we have often seen, an artist in the matter of graduated intensity. From Septuagesima on it has been a constant crescendo. Pre-Lent was the first step, then Lent. In Lent an irresistible onward drive was apparent. Then Passiontide, and a further step at Palm Sunday, which marked the beginning of Holy Week. Now we enter the Holy of Holies, the Sacred Triduum.

b) But these three days are already a part of Easter; for there is an inseparable union between the death and resurrection of Christ – the two together constitute the Easter mystery. Therefore we pass from Holy Week to Easter Week with no noticeable break; Holy Saturday is a resurrection and baptism service – the Easter Vigil.

c) These three days may, nevertheless, be regarded as a unit in themselves, a true triduum or trilogy, a three-part drama on Christ’s redemptive work. We have already interpreted the Hours of Matins and Lauds in this manner, and the same interpretation is valid for the evening liturgy. The Office emphasizes the Lord’s “bitter suffering” and death; the remaining liturgy is generally of a different character and content. It deals rather with the beata passio, the glorious, victorious aspect of Christ’s redeeming work (Matins are of later origin – from the eighth and ninth centuries whereas the Mass liturgy dates from the most primitive times).

The main themes of Matins on the coming days are: fear of death, the crucifixion, rest in the sepulcher; the three evening services, on the other hand, take as their principal subjects: the Eucharist, the triumph of the Cross, baptism and resurrection. Thus subjective-meditative piety and piety of an objective-receptive mold both find plenty food as the bitter passion and the glory of the Cross are alternately presented to the soul.

Here is a final observation on participation in the services during the Sacred Triduum. In the Middle Ages Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday were holydays; buying and selling stopped, and the people could take part in the religious celebration without difficulty. This was as it should be. Christians ought to have the opportunity to observe these greatest of memorial days with due preparation and calm of soul, days on which the most sublime mysteries are re-enacted.

Unfortunately the economic situation is such that most of  us can participate in these solemnities only after a regular day’s work. In some places factories and stores close at noon on Good Friday. Zealous pastors will devise ways and means of utilizing this concession of the business world. In any case I would strongly urge all readers to remain as free as possible from work on these days. Attend and participate in the services. The evening hour has made it easy.

The women should finish their usual Easter house-cleaning by Wednesday. In families interest in the Holy Week liturgy and zeal to attend the services should be stimulated. Pastors should arrange the services so that the greatest possible number of people can be present. It would indeed be tragic if the most solemn and sacred rites of the entire year would take place in empty churches now that the Holy See has again restored to the Christian world its most precious heritage.

The Church’s Year of Grace, Volume 2, pages 316-317

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