This Triduum, Where Will You Be?
Can any liturgy compare to the Triduum liturgies? Participating in Mass and services on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil transports us to a supernatural plane. Experiencing the washing of the feet, kissing the wood of the cross, and seeing the slow spread of candlelight; it all leads us to reflect deeply on the mysteries of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection as if we were there. Throughout the years, these moments have led me to imagine myself somewhere in the scenes. To ponder, where would I have been if I were alive those 2,000+ years ago? Would I have been in the crowd crying “crucify him”? Would I have been weeping along the way of his cross? What would it have been like to be a bystander on those Jerusalem streets? What would it have been like to look into His eyes?
When my oldest children were babies, for the first time I was unable to attend Triduum liturgies. A 7:30 start time doesn’t jive well with 7:30 bedtimes. That Good Friday, after I put the kids to bed and began to wash the dishes, I found myself again reflecting, “where would I have been 2,000+ years ago?” And that year, I knew for certain. I would have been at home, listening to my children fall asleep as I completed my daily chores. I may have wanted to be along the way of the cross. My heart may have longed to look into Jesus’ eyes and tell Him with mine that I loved Him and I ached for Him. I may have desired to wipe His sweaty, bloody face with my soft, clean veil. But my call to care for my family would have kept me home. So I would have completed my duties while offering my heart in prayer. While longing to console Jesus physically, I would have only been able to offer distant prayers.
On the day of His resurrection, I again may have longed to travel to the tomb and anoint the body of Jesus with the other women. But maybe my baby would have been teething and needed to nurse more than usual, making him too fussy for a burial ritual. So perhaps I would have sent some spices with Mary Magdalene and asked her to bring prayers on behalf of family to the body of Jesus. Even 2000+ years ago, I would have heard about the resurrection secondhand. Would I have believed? Would I have trusted even though I did not see?
Where are you this year during Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection? Where is your soul in relation to Jesus Christ? Where do you fit into that story which is ever ancient and ever new?
This year, we all find ourselves “stuck” at home during Holy Week. It’s normal and right to lament the loss of in-person Triduum and Easter liturgies; to long for gatherings at the parish with our communities and priests drawing us into the supernatural Paschal mysteries and to miss reception of Holy Communion. This year, we truly suffer a loss. But let us not despair! There is a unique opportunity here for every Domestic Church around the world if only we have the eyes to see.
Perhaps our aching souls will long to be with Jesus on the way of the cross more deeply than ever before. Perhaps our Holy Saturday hearts will wait in more poignant anticipation for what miraculous things Jesus will do next. While we can’t go out to meet Christ where we normally would, perhaps we will invite Him into our homes in way we’ve never done before.
This is our challenge and our call this Triduum. What new life will burst forth if we take it seriously! Here are some practical ways to invite Jesus into your home this year. First, create a sacred space somewhere where your family can gather in prayer. This can be as simple as a side table adorned with a crucifix and image of Mary. Livestream the Triduum liturgies and pray along with them while gathered at this sacred space.
On Holy Thursday, you can make a special meal and even bake unleavened bread to break and share. Gather for prayer that evening and take turns washing one another’s feet. I’m willing to bet there have been times during this quarantine that you have gotten on one another’s nerves. Humbling yourselves and stooping to wash one another’s feet can be an important reminder of the choice to love – even when it’s difficult.
On Good Friday, put your phone away. Enter into the silence of the day on which humanity killed God. It should feel different and uncomfortable compared to an average day. Consider praying the Stations of the Cross as a family. Afterward, take turns kissing the wood of a cross and thanking Jesus for his sacrifice of love.
Continue a great silence into Holy Saturday and prepare for an at-home Easter vigil. When darkness begins to fall, give each family member a candle (maybe even dig out the baptismal candles!) and spread the light of Christ to everyone while listening to the words of the Exultet. (There is a great version on Youtube here.) You can even paint a Paschal Candle using a regular pillar candle and acrylic paint. This candle can be lit when you gather for prayer at your sacred space throughout the Easter season.
Easter Sunday will be the most difficult to re-create at home. We plan to dress in our Easter best, even though we won’t be leaving the house and eating a special meal together. But I wonder what can compare to an altar bursting with lilies or a trumpet accompanying a church ringing with full-throated Alleluia’s!? I’m not sure what can. So, let’s let Jesus surprise us. As He did on that first Easter Sunday, perhaps He will exceed all our expectations.