As the sun sets this evening Christians enter into the sacred and blessed Triddum - the three days where Christians remember the Passion, Death and suffering of our Saviour Jesus Christ before the good news, the great news, the glorious news of Easter morning.
‘The Easter mystery is a game changer. It is definitely a game changer for us. But don’t forget it was also a game changer for Jesus and his companions. The first point, I am sure many of you will preached on, the resurrected Jesus still bears the wounds of the crucifixion. The resurrected Jesus is deeply connected to his death and the manner of his death. The resurrection does not undo the death, but it does cast it in an entirely new light. The second point is that whilst there is continuity (as evidenced by the wounds) everything changes. The resurrection was literally unimaginable. And the what Jesus does post resurrection changes. There are no post resurrection stories of Jesus feeding the multitude, of Jesus preaching, of Jesus healing the sick. Jesus’ way of being in the world changes.
As Christians we celebrated the Paschal mystery every year. As a Roman Catholic, the liturgy of the Easter Triduum is quite extraordinary. We have a single liturgical service held over three days. On Maundy [Holy] Thursday we commemorate the Last Supper, the celebration pauses with a time of contemplation as we consider Jesus in Garden of Gethsemane. The second phase of the liturgy begins on Friday afternoon – the reading of the Passion and the veneration of the Cross. It is the only day in the entire year where there is no consecration of the Eucharist. The third phase begins on Saturday evening. It is the telling of Salvation history, the singing of the beautiful Exsultet, the affirmation of our baptismal promises and the declaration that he is indeed risen.
It is only as I prepare this talk, that I recognize the powerful subliminal messaging that is inherent in the annual cycle of Lent, Easter and the Easter season. We need a perennial reminder that death is not the end, but it is also not trivial. It is this foundational paradox – death does change everything, but not necessarily in the way that we expect. Death is an end but it is not necessarily the end.’
It is this reminder that gives us the faith to hold our nerve through the countless deaths both literal and metaphorical which life serves us.At his general audience on Wednesday 28th March, Pope Francis reflected on the Paschal Triduum, calling it the center “of our faith and vocation in the world”. The Triduum, or “three days”, begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Thursday evening and ends on Easter Sunday. The Holy Father said Christians are called to live the mystery of Jesus’ death and resurrection as “the matrix of their personal and communitarian lives”.
Pope Francis said the climax of the Church’s liturgical year is proclaimed at Mass on Easter Sunday in the Sequence: “Christ, my hope, is arisen; into Galilee he will go before his own.” He called this both “a proclamation of joy and hope” and “an appeal to responsibility and mission. The Triduum, he said, prepares us to receive this proclamation. “It is the center of our faith and our hope. It is the kerygma, which continuously evangelizes the Church, which in turn is sent out to evangelize.”
Pope Francis said the Paschal Triduum renews baptized Christians in “the meaning of their new condition”. “In Baptism,” he said, “we are raised with Jesus and we die to the things and logic of this world.” He said this new condition must be lived out concretely day-by-day. “A Christian – if they truly let themselves be washed by Christ and stripped by him of ‘the old man’ to walk in newness of life – even though they remain a sinner, cannot be corrupted. [The Christian] can live no more with death in their soul, nor can they be a cause of death.”
Pope Francis said the world becomes “the space to live our newly resurrected lives.” We are called to do this, he said, “on our feet, with our head held high. Thus can we share the humiliation of those who today, like Jesus, still suffer nakedness, need, loneliness, and death”.
The Holy Father said that it is thanks to Jesus and with Him that we become “instruments of redemption and hope, as well as signs of life and resurrection.”
For Latin Christians/Roman Catholics Holy Thursday night marks the celebration of the Mass of the Lords Supper when we commemorate the institution of the Eucharist, the priesthood and remember the Mandatum - the great commandment
At the Last Supper, Jesus took a basin and a towel, got down on his hands and knees and washed the feet of all of his apostles. After this action, he commanded the apostles, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do” (John 13:15). This is Jesus’ commandment: Just as Jesus has been a servant to his apostles, so the apostles must go out into the world and be servants to everyone around them.
We are called to do the same in our daily lives. Well, we are not called literally to wash each other’s feet (though sometimes that may be the case). The action of washing one another’s feet reminds us of the call to humble servitude. Foot washing is not a re-enactment or re-creation of a past event, but rather, it is a commemorative action that reminds us that God calls us first and foremost to be servants to others in our daily lives.
At the very first Last Supper, Jesus also instituted the Eucharist for the Church. At this Holy Thursday celebration, we are reminded of who we are in Jesus Christ and that, through the sacrament of the Eucharist, we are and we become even more the Body of Christ together.
At the conclusion of the Holy Thursday celebration, there is no concluding prayer. Once the celebration of the Eucharist is completed, there is a Eucharistic Procession (where the Eucharist that is left from Communion is processed to a Chapel of Reservation). This procession to the Chapel of Reservation reminds us of Jesus’ time in the garden of Gethsemane when he prayed so fervently through the night. The entire community is invited to join in this procession and then join in the silent prayer and adoration until night prayer is prayed and the Eucharist is put in the Tabernacle. The gathered community leaves in silence only to return in prayer the next day for the Good Friday celebration.