Pope Francis lights the paschal candle at the start of the Easter Vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican April 3, 2021. The Easter Vigil was celebrated in a near empty basilica for the second year in a row as Italy continued to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
Holy Triduum: A way to reflect on Christ’s life and Passion
BY DEACON JAY W. VANHOOSIER, OFFICE OF FAITH FORMATION
Holy Triduum – literally, the holy three days. One feast that is celebrated over a three-day period. The end of Holy Week. For a Catholic Christian, there is no more sorrowful or more joyous time than this in the Church year. Why? Because each of the three days of Triduum gives us time to reflect more deeply upon Christ’s life, his Passion, and his Resurrection. I would like to suggest some ways that we might mediate upon these mysteries – allowing ourselves to enter into them – drawing ourselves closer to Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection.
On Holy Thursday, let us take time to reflect that on this night, Jesus instituted the Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood. He broke bread with his apostles, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you.” And he then offered the cup, saying, “Take this and share it among yourselves… This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you… Do this in memory of me.” Jesus also taught his apostles how to be servant-leaders as he was by washing their feet – a lowly job fit only for a servant. He also tells these men – his closest friends – that one would betray him.
We know the rest of the story of this night, do we not? He goes to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane and he asks his Father to have this cup be taken from him. Though he is God, he is also human and here the humanity shows – he knew he would feel pain – pain from a brutal scourging, pain from the thorns, pain from carrying that heavy cross, and pain from the nails. Who of us would not want this cup to pass us by? But the cup would not be taken away. God would not allow himself to be immune to the pain that would be inflicted. He made a promise to us. In order to rise, Jesus must die.
And so now we mourn on Good Friday. Our spirits are in agony as we see Jesus scourged. We cry out as he falls not once, not twice, but three times as he carries the burden of the cross upon which he will be hanged. Our stomachs churn as the soldiers drive massive nails into his hands and feet. We sob with Mary, his mother, as she stands helplessly yet courageously, watching as he bleeds to death. We tremble with the earth as it shakes when breathes his last breath. And as the skies darken, our hearts grow cold and dark with them when we realize that all of this just happened to him because of us… because of our sins.
On Saturday leading up to Easter Vigil, we take time to ponder the great sacrifice Jesus has made and we wait with anticipation. We hope. We pray. We give thanks. With the Easter Vigil, we rejoice because the tomb is empty! We are joyous for Jesus is risen from the dead! Jesus is alive! We also weep again. But this is a different weeping. We are not sorrowful. We do not weep because of our guilt. No, we weep with joy because we know that we now have new life. Jesus has opened the gates of heaven, and we decide our destination.
Our actions, our choices, and our decisions will determine whether we spend eternity with Christ in heaven, or whether we lose an eternity of goodness, love, and peace. The empty tomb ensures heaven’s open gate.
So yes, for a Catholic Christian, there is no more sorrowful or more joyous time than this! Holy Triduum proves it.
Dcn. Jay W. VanHoosier is the Director of Faith Formation for the Diocese of Owensboro. For more information visit owensborodiocese.org/faith-formation, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (270) 852-8324.
Originally printed in the April 2022 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.