“The three days of the Easter Triduum make up the shortest season of the Church year. On Holy Thursday we celebrate again the Last Supper. In Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians we are witness to the first Eucharist and hear Christ’s words still spoken at each Mass, “Do this in remembrance of me.” In the Gospel we see Jesus washing the apostles’ feet and saying to them, “As I have done, so you must do.” In Christ’s directions to his apostles, to celebrate the Eucharist in his memory and to serve others, we see the beginning of the priesthood. This is not only a striking reminder of the priests’ service to the church, but of our call to serve each other. On Good Friday we read the Passion and hear of Christ’s betrayal, torture, and crucifixion. In the Veneration of the Cross the congregation is invited to come forward and give a sign of gratitude for our salvation through Christ’s death by genuflecting before, or kissing, the cross. On Good Friday we also have special intentions. Of these, I find the prayers for Christian unity, for the Jewish People, and for unbelievers to be the most moving. On Holy Saturday we have the Easter Vigil. This celebration is truly extraordinary. The first thing that happens is the lighting of a fire; from this fire, the Paschal Candle is lit. This candle represents for us Christ’s light to the world. The Easter Proclamation is then sung. This song encourages us to rejoice in the knowledge that Christ will rise from the dead. The Vigil continues as we hear a series of Scriptural readings: if you follow along closely, you will see that those readings are about the covenant between God and his chosen ones. Then something simple, but profound happens: the Alleluia, silent since Ash Wednesday, celebrates the Risen Christ! If the parish is lucky enough to have baptisms you will see another of the important events of the Vigil. The Easter Vigil has always been a time for new members to join the church. A word of encouragement and a word of caution about the Easter Vigil: the Vigil is absolutely the high point of the liturgical year and can be profoundly moving; it is, however, long. To fully understand and appreciate our faith we must understand and appreciate the events of the Triduum and how the Church commemorates them. Hopefully this will give you some help in explaining to your children just what the days leading up to Easter are all about.”
Every year we have the opportunity to really enter into the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. Sometimes our work schedule or other demands make this impossible. But it would be a great sadness if we died without ever having experienced the raw emotions that Our Lord’s sacrificial death causes in us. Before you go, consider making a good confession – there are many times available and you honor the gift of priesthood by receiving sacramental absolution. As this Palm Sunday makes manifest to the world, there can be no true crown without the cross because there can be no true love without suffering. Please remember to pray for all of us who are ordained on Tuesday, as we celebrate the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral in La Crosse (you’re very welcome to attend – it begins at 10:30 a.m.). We renew our vows at that Mass and it’s a powerful reminder of how God is faithful to His Church, especially in the midst of human frailty and sin. I’ll be asking for the grace to serve Him and you more generously in the year to come – I rely on your prayers to keep this promise.
May this Holy Week deepen our ability to trust God so that no suffering will ever separate us from Him!
Your friend in Christ, Father Martin