The Triduum

These reflections are appearing in these days on the Life Teen website:

I thought I would re-post them here in their original form.  You can read them one at a time or all at once.  Enjoy!

Introduction:  The Triduum refers to the three days in which the Church remembers the events that are at the center of our Catholic Faith.  The Church remembers in a particular way, in a way that what she remembers is not just something in the past, but something that changes us today.  This particular way of remembering is called the liturgy: the public prayer of the Church, a prayer that transforms the people that enter into it.  The three days include actions that are not part of the “normal” Masses that we go to every Sunday, and these special parts of the Mass help us understand the central events of our Faith.

Holy Thursday—the washing of feet

TOPSHOTS This handout picture released b

In the world of Jesus’ day, there were no cement sidewalks or paved roads, and most people wore sandals.  We could imagine, walking on these ancient dirt roads, how dirty our feet would get.  And so, the fact that I would need to wash my feet when I came inside was a normal part of life.  But who would wash my feet?  In those days, it would have been a servant or a slave of the house, someone of a lower class than the owner of the house or his guests.

The washing of someone’s feet was a sign of welcome, of hospitality: you can feel at home here.  The fact, then, that Jesus is the one to kneel down and wash the feet of his disciples demonstrates to us the lengths to which Christ wants to go to make us feel welcome in his Father’s house.  “For your sake Christ became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)  “Christ emptied himself, taking the form of a slave,” (Philippians 2:7) in order to wash us clean and to make us members of his family.  Christ becomes the slave, the servant, who cleans our feet as we enter his house.

When were we first washed? When did we become members of God’s family and enter God’s house?  It was on the day of our Baptism, when our parents and our godparents brought us into the Church and we became children of God.  But what if our feet get dirty again?  What if the roads of this life have led me astray and away from the Father’s house?  There is a way for us to come back into our Father’s house if we have need of being washed again (and again and again): the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Confession.

There comes a time in life when it seems like we have outgrown the house where we grew up, and our main desire (especially on the weekends) is “to go out”, to leave my house.  “Where are you going?” mom asks.  “Out,” we respond.  This desire is completely natural and good, if we understand it correctly.  We are looking for a home, our true home.  We look for it in our friends, in human love, in material things (legal and illegal), in esteem, in “followers”.  The best question we can ask ourselves in all of this “going out” is, “What truly satisfies my heart?”  And when we mess up along the way, there is the “washing” of Confession, that welcomes us back again and again.

The most beautiful thing in life is when the desire to go out and find our true home, that place where we belong, meets the desire of Jesus to bring us into his Father’s house.  When we read the account of the washing of the feet in John’s Gospel (Chapter 13) and when the priest actually repeats this action by washing the feet of some of the people at the Mass, we are being invited to “come home”.  Let us say Yes to that invitation!


Good Friday—the veneration of the Cross

andrea montegna calvary

“When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” (John 12:32)  In the liturgy of Good Friday, everyone who comes to church has the chance to come forward and kiss the Cross.  We do this action not as an empty ritual, like robots, that may happen to be a little bit harder for those of us who are germ-freaks.  No!  We approach the Cross with the awareness that Jesus is drawing us there, and that in our life it is His love that always comes first.

There are two places in the Bible that talk about this love that “comes before”.  Jesus says, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.” (John 15:16)  Later, Saint John tells us, “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)  Pope Francis has talked often about the love that comes before, about the God who waits for us even when we are not thinking about him at all.  God is active, pursuing our good and “laboring for our love” as Saint Ignatius of Loyola said.

But, Father, this active God who is loving us and working for us all the time sure hides himself rather well!  What about all the evil in the world?  What about all those who have lost their loved ones or the good people who suffer without ever doing anything wrong?  Isn’t it cruel to talk about this God who works on our behalf when there are so many that feel abandoned by him?

Beautiful questions!  The answer of God to these questions that we must ask—and we should never feel bad for asking them—is not given in words but in actions.  Precisely, in the action of the Cross.  Our God is not a God who experiences our suffering only as a spectator.  God sends his Son Jesus into the dark forest of our suffering and death in order to meet us there.  God loses his Son so as not to lose us.  Which means?  No one ever suffers or dies alone—Christ is always right there next to us.

On Good Friday, the Gospel story of Christ’s suffering and death is read, and we hear again all the gory details of this active love of God.  When after the Gospel we come forward to kiss the Cross, we do so with grateful hearts, trusting that God “goes before” us in every aspect of our life: the joys and the sorrows, in life and in death.  And let us also pray that we can be convinced, together with Saint Paul, that “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)


Holy Saturday—together with Mary


Silence.  This is the word that sums up what Holy Saturday is all about.  Christ has been crucified and now he lays in the tomb.  The disciples have all been scattered, and will only slowly make their way back to the upper room, where they had the last supper.  Saint John and Mother Mary have gone home, as we heard that from the time of Christ’s crucifixion, the disciples John took Mary to live with him.

The Church is also silent on this day.  There is not special liturgy for Holy Saturday like there was for Holy Thursday and Good Friday.  The Mass that the Church celebrates on Saturday evening will already be the first celebration of Easter, the Easter Vigil.  The voice of the Church—if we think of the liturgy as the prayer that all of us can enter—has very little to say on this day.

But the silence is not an empty silence; it is not the silence of nothing or of boredom.  It is a silence that is full of memories.  We can think of Mother Mary on this day remembering all the promises that God had made to the prophets and to the people of the Old Testament.  We can think of her remembering and maybe sharing with Saint John all the amazing things that happened while Jesus was with them: his miracles, his calling of the disciples, his preaching.  It is not an empty silence, but a silence filled with hope, with a question:  How will God act now that everything seems to have ended with the death of Christ?

My friends, we enter into this silence and this “memory” of Our Lady every time that we pray the rosary.  The rosary is that prayer in which we remember with Mary the events of the life of Christ: the Joyful Mysteries of the beginning of his life; the Luminous Mysteries of his public ministry; the Sorrowful Mysteries of his death; and of course, the hope of the Glorious Mysteries of the Resurrection.

To take time for silence is not just a way to “escape” from the busyness of everyday life.  It is a way to “make room” for God to speak, and to remember the amazing things that God has said to us and about our life.  On this Holy Saturday, let’s take some time to put down the phone, to turn off the computer, and to remember with Our Lady all that God has done and has promised to do.


Easter Sunday—renewal of our Baptismal Promises


“He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay remains.”  (Matthew 28:6)  Easter begins with an amazing fact: the tomb of Jesus is empty.  When they had laid him there and rolled a stone in front of the tomb, the disciples and the women expected him to stay there.  But he didn’t!  He is risen as he promised!

Of course, the fact of an empty tomb is only the first step.  Christ will appear many times to his disciples and friends in these days, and we will hear about these encounters on all the Sundays of the Easter Season.  Jesus appears in strange ways: walking through locked doors, hiding himself at first, then revealing that it is really him.  And not just his soul or his ghost—he even eats breakfast with them to show that his body too has won the victory.

Jesus has won the victory!  That is the good news, the Gospel of Easter.  But it is not just good news for Jesus; it is good news for us as well.  The victory of Jesus is not just for Jesus; Jesus wants to give it also to us.  The announcement that he has risen was not just for the first disciples, but also for us today.  How did this victory of Jesus become our victory?

Baptism.  In the sacrament of Baptism, you and I were “touched” by the victory of Jesus, the victory of God the Father who raised Jesus from the dead.  “He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” (Colossians 1:13) Christ made us children of God and members of his household.

On Easter Sunday, we have the opportunity to renew our baptismal promises, the promises that our parents and godparents made on our behalf when (most of us) were baptized as children.  We will be asked three questions: “Do you believe in God the Father? in God the Son?  in God the Holy Spirit?” and we will respond “I do!”  The priest will then come around and sprinkle us with Holy Water, again as the reminder of our Baptism.

Easter means the Christ remains.  That he is not just someone from the past whose message remains, but that he is personally involved in each of our lives and in our life together in the Church.  So when we respond to those questions, let us respond to Christ who is present, inviting us to share in his victory.  Do you want to live with me forever?  I do!


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