by Virginia Vollmer, OFS
First, what is The Triduum? From the US Conference of Catholic Bishops: “Though [the Triduum is] chronologically three days, they are liturgically one day unfolding for us the unity of Christ’s Paschal Mystery”. The services are: the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, the Passion on Good Friday, and the Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord on Easter Vigil.
At St Elizabeth Seton we began the Mass of the Lord’s Supper with the reception of the Holy Oils- the oil of the sick, the oil of the catechumens, and the holy chrism oil. We see these displayed near the baptismal font. The Holy Oils are received by the priest or deacons at the Chrism Mass (this year held on Monday April 3rd). The washing of the feet or mandatum is the part of Holy Thursday that most of us remember. Each parish may present the mandatum differently. As you entered the church this Holy Thursday evening, you may have noticed at the ends of different pews a reserved sign and a towel. Father Killian, in demonstrating Jesus’s example of love and service, solemnly washed the feet of Twelve individuals representing various ministries (Extraordinary Minister, choir, lector, hospitality, and others). Tears were shed during this ritual. When did the Apostles understand the significance of the washing of the feet? After communion the Holy Eucharist was solemnly transferred to a darkened church hall for adoration.
On Good Friday parishioners gathered quietly in the church to see a bare altar. We recalled Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant and the story of Jesus’s Passion. A large cross was carried into the church for veneration. Slowly, two by two, young and old, tall and short, men and women, families and singles, all who could came forward to venerate the cross. We remember His death. “Behold the Wood” and “O Sacred Head Surrounded”- songs that accompanied the veneration. After communion, we departed in prayerful silence to wait. Did the Apostles know they were waiting?
We waited for the Easter Vigil, The Mass of the Resurrection of the Lord. The church was dark and quiet. Outside, the new Paschal candle was lit and brought into the church. Each person held a candle – those closest to the Paschal candle received the light with their own candle and passed it along to others until the entire church was immersed in candlelight. We then heard the stories of salvation from the Old Testament – stories of our faith, stories we tell and retell as a faithful family. And when the stories have been told, the bells ring, the lights come on and the altar candles are lit- Gloria! We sing! The twelve catechumens who have been awaiting this day are brought forward after the homily. They profess their faith, are baptized and don a white robe. And the congregation renews their baptismal vows as well. And so, the Eucharistic Liturgy continued – soon the final blessing is received and the Church is sent forth to spread the Good News!
The Triduum Liturgy is complete for another year- Christ is Risen! Gloria! Alleluia!