“Your face they said was as hard as flint–not to be assuaged from your intent. Who would have blamed you for changing tactics, circling around coming at things a different way Surely not Judas, nor probably I.”Bob Toohey from Falling Forward
As I write this post, I am looking forward to celebrating Passion/Palm Sunday with my Emmaus Ecumenical Catholic Community. This is the Sunday that prepares us for the Great Triduum — the Three Days — that begins on April 6th. These three days, that begin on Holy or Maundy Thursday, take us through Good Friday and the Great Easter Vigil to the culmination on Easter Sunday, proclaim one dramatic story. We count these as three days because the count starts on the evening of Thursday to the evening of Friday, and so forth. We count these days in the same way that ancient tradition counted — from sunset to sunset — as it says in scripture, “And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” (Genesis 1: 3)
So, the Triduum is one feast day celebrated in three acts. We are meant to understand the Triduum as one service, unfolding over three days. However, it is obvious to me that people typically do not understand this, or they would be attending all three acts. My experience shows me that most people attend on Easter Sunday and miss out on the other parts of the service. I think this is sad because through these three days we are immersed in the mystery of the Incarnation and its purpose, the mystery of Christ and the impact that Christ’s life, death, and resurrection has had on the destiny of humanity.
I especially value the Easter Vigil when we go over the whole salvation story from Genesis to the birth of the Christian way of life. It tells us the story of God’s saving love and how God has pursued us down through history, calling us to come back into a relationship of love.
On Holy Thursday we remember that Christ Jesus proclaimed a new commandment –that we love one another as he has loved us, and then Jesus showed us what that looks like by washing the feet of his disciples. He demonstrates how we are to offer humble service as our self-offering to God. This night also celebrates the establishment of Eucharist — the sharing of the bread and wine that become his Body and Blood. We are commanded to celebrate this sacrificial meal, so we may never forget Christ and we never forget that we, too, are the Body of Christ. We, too, are to be as bread, blessed, broken, and given for others. We, too, are to be as wine poured out in a new covenant of love for the forgiveness of sins.
On Good Friday we continue our one service by spending the evening hearing again the passion story of the last day that Christ lived with us as a mortal human person. We read from the Gospel of John. After this reading of the gospel tradition bids us to offer solemn prayers of intercession for the world. After these formal prayers we venerate the wood of the cross and sing: “This is the wood of the cross, on which hung the Savior of the world.” Then it is common to leave in silence as we remember that Christ was buried and in the tomb for three days, and as far as the disciples knew, he was lost to them. If bread (The Body of Christ) was reserved from Holy Thursday, we may receive communion again.
Saturday is a quiet and solemn day until we gather again for the Great Vigil. And this is exactly what this night is meant to be — a vigil! We start with a service of light, lighting a new Easter Candle and singing of the triumph of Christ our Light over the darkness of our world. Then we spend the night listening to the story of salvation from creation to our new life in Christ. It would be a very long night indeed if we presiders didn’t make judicious decisions about what readings to include as we retell the story. Often baptisms and confirmations are celebrated on this night.
All of this brings us to our Easter celebration. This begins with bringing back the Gloria, which has not been sung throughout the season of Lent. We bring back our alleluias, too. We celebrate with gusto a great feast of thanksgiving — Eucharist — for the Resurrection of Christ Jesus!
Christ Jesus came preaching a new kind of kingdom – a kingdom of God where the ways of God reign over the earth. He recruited followers to join him in the transformation of life on this earth. Humanity had created a world of injustice, violence, and greed, where the few at the top rule over all the others. Each ruler building his petty tower of Babel. Christ came to lead us into a new way, a way of justice, non-violence, and generosity. This is why the powers that ruled – the political powers, the religious powers and even the cultural powers – killed Jesus. They killed him because he was critical of everything they stood for, and he was gaining a following. They did not want to change the system that was rigged in their favor. They had to put down this rebellion.
It is not that Jesus died to pay for our sins. We need to let go of any remnants of atonement theology that have stuck in our minds. Jesus died because people killed him when he refused to stop preaching against the system. Christ Jesus came into the world to change the world not to take us out of the world. We were created in the very image of God, but humanity lost its way. Christ still comes to bring us back to ourselves, for we are created in the very likeness of God.
Easter is God’s “yes” to Jesus and to everything that Jesus did and taught. Easter is God’s “no” to the powers that killed him. The resurrection is God’s affirmation – that love has and will triumph; that darkness cannot overcome the light.
In Christ God’s love moves the blocking stones away from the tombs that hold us – the stones of injustice, violence, racism, sexism, oppression, prejudice, hate, fear, meanness, greed – and gives us another way to be in the world, the way of love, hope, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, and self-control.
Because of the resurrection Christ is now loose in our world and cannot be confined to any one place. The life-giving love of God is loose in our world and even death has no power over us any longer. Every Easter is a new beginning. We understand now that the darkness will always try to snuff out the light, but it can never win. The light comes back with new beginnings, new life, bringing a new creation. No matter how dark things get, resurrection is just around the corner. This is the pattern of our lives.
Our job as those who are baptized into Christ is to live into the life of Christ, becoming ourselves the light for the world as we become the Body of Christ. Whenever the darkness tries to overcome us, we can turn again to the light with hope and expectation. Because God is with us and on our side. Easter says that God still intends to bring the kingdom of God to earth as it is in heaven. And this is our constant prayer. We just need to reorient our lives to be on God’s side in this work of bringing God’s kingdom to earth.
My beloved ones in Christ, let us celebrate the Triduum with gratitude and rejoicing.