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It Lies in the Journey Itself

In most churches, the Prayer Books in the pews tend to fall open to page 355, where Holy Eucharist Rite Two begins; and in some, the pages of the Daily Office and the Psalter may be a little dog-eared, too.  But often overlooked by many are the Proper Liturgies for Special Days: Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and, most especially, the Triduum (“three days”), which comprises Maundy Thursday through the Great Vigil of Easter.  For reasons of timing and commitment the Triduum will never rival the glorious and grand liturgies of Easter Day, but if you have never walked the Triduum … never worshipped on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and the Eve of Easter (and Holy Saturday morning, if you can manage it!) … I encourage you to try it this year.  For Easter will then dawn on you in an entirely different light. 

For one thing, this series of services paces us through—that is, slows us down, so we can recollect and reflect on—the tenderness and tumult of the three days’ journey to the Empty Tomb.  Before Calvary come Jesus’ dual gifts to us: the invitation to share in His servanthood in the washing of feet, and the invitation to share in His Being in the Holy Communion He institutes.  Before the Tomb comes His dual sacrifice: of agony on the Tree, and of mercy in His love.  Before the dazzling brightness of Easter Day comes the dual Word: the first, flickering re-emergence of the Light into this world, and the recapitulation and renewal of God’s eternal, unfailing covenant with God’s People, perfected in Christ.  To be sure, the Resurrection is the culminating event of Jesus’ mission in this world, but there is so much more for us to behold … and live into; and the Triduum immerses us in it so deeply. 

Committing to the Triduum also carries us along the entire affective, theological and spiritual arc of these three most holy days of the Christian year.  On Maundy Thursday, we begin in the comfort and familiarity—albeit tinged with anxiety and apprehension—of the Upper Room, as Jesus kneels at the feet of His friends to bathe and bless them and shares a final meal … a meal of remembering … with them.  And then, accompanied by the plangent, arresting words of Psalm 22, the Altar is stripped bare, as if in imitation of Christ’s baring His very soul in Gethsemane.  We resume on Good Friday (for the Triduum is, in fact, one continuous liturgy, divided into three segments) at the Cross: recollecting not only Jesus’ selfless dying for us, but also His unceasing prayer for us—both with His lips and His life.  In many places, we spend time quietly contemplating the beautiful agony of the Cross, and we receive the Body and the Blood via bread and wine consecrated the night before—for, we know, Christ still lives!   

And then, in the dim dusk of Easter Eve, we gather to witness the return of the Light:  The Paschal Candle will not be extinguished, and by its brightness we are led back into the church, where we re-hear all the ways that God has been with us, from the very beginning.  After witnessing a Holy Baptism (or Confirmation) or renewing our own—Christ’s own are we!—the church is flooded with light and the sound of bells, organ and peals of Alleluias, now returned:  Christ is risen indeed!  Let us keep the feast! 

Perhaps, however, the most compelling reason to commit to the Triduum this year doesn’t lie in plumbing the depths of the divine mystery of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection … or experiencing, through worship, the roller-coaster of His obedient love.  Perhaps, instead, it lies in the journey itself.  The Triduum is not unlike a religious pilgrimage: people gathering at an unaccustomed time, for an uncomfortable trek through an unfamiliar ritual … as an act of pure faith and devotion.  There can be no telling how the Holy Spirit will touch and stir us along the way, but It will.  We cannot know how we will be knit together as a community during our journey, but we will.  And for having, this year, taken the ‘long road’ to the Empty Tomb, our walk with Jesus will never be the same again. 

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Category: #Sundays, #Worship & Formation

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One reply to “It Lies in the Journey Itself

  1. Betsy Northam | on April 5, 2023

    Beautiful!

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