Fr. Tim's Letter - March 25, 2018

Hello & “Blessed Holy Week”, People of the Resurrection...

I’ve asked for the whole page today – to offer you sincere encouragement and background, so that you might consider participating in the Sacred Triduum – the Church’s central, 3-day liturgy this week!  It is the Greatest of all Worship – bringing into the present for us the “Way” Jesus lived - as a humbled servant, broken and poured out; the “Way” He died – serene, merciful and full of expectation and trust; and the “Way” He conquered death and rose in triumph!  Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday! It’s life-changing and if you come to church only a little bit – please come to the Sacred Triduum! You won’t regret it!

Holy Thursday + The Mass of the Lord’s Supper

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The Church’s “three-day liturgy”, the Triduum, begins tonight at 7:00pm with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.That supper was in fact, also the annual Jewish Passover meal - the annual remembrance of God’s freeing Israel from slavery in Egypt & leading them through the desert to the “Promised Land”.

Jesus, aware of the turning tide of public opinion & the scheming of the Jewish religious officials, in cohort with his own apostle, Judas, comes to that Passover table also aware of his impending arrest, torture, trial & death.

But, He comes also steadfast in the “Way of Love” which is His Father’s Word & Will.  He trusts that love to be stronger than even death!  And so, He casts the meal in terms of His own “passing over” through & beyond death’s ‘moment and gate’... always in the protection of the Father, Whose Will He seeks to fulfill no matter what the cost. He invites us to live that way too. 

And so he ‘institutes’ the Priesthood; He gives the gift of the Eucharist - Holy Communion - to strengthen us for that “Way of Love”, and he models and mandates for us what Christian Life and Ministry are to be about - humble that of washing feet.

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In tonight’s liturgy therefore, priests renew our vows; the Holy Oils, blessed earlier this week at the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral are received in parish churches to get us ‘all set’ for another year of sacramental ministry, the Eucharist is celebrated, received, and reposed with the greatest of reverence, adoration and appreciation, and Christians wash each other’s feet, so that like bread broken and wine poured out, our lives may be “broken and poured out” in loving service & ministry - just like Jesus in the Upper Room & on the Holy Cross of Calvary.

Good Friday + Remembrance of the Passion & Death of the Lord

Today’s 2nd portion of the three-day liturgy of the Triduum begins at 1:00pm, and confronts us with something that most of us spend energy avoiding: the reality of human death. “No one gets out alive!” the saying goes; but still we engage in a lot of denial around the issue, don’t we?!

However, the Good News of this day is that Jesus goes the way before us! He reveals death for what it is: It is a “moment and gate” (Cardinal Joseph Bernardin). It is a “mystery” (Isaiah). It can be, if we allow, a “friend” (Henri Nouwen), a “blessed rest” (J.S. Bach), a “brother or sister”. (St. Francis of Assisi).

Jesus knew ‘it is not a permanent state of being’ (like being dead), but a moment (we die). So we’re able to confront death today, in Him. 

The liturgy continues (doesn’t begin, because we did that last night) with our coming before death’s mystery in sober silence: we kneel; the priest and ministers are prostrate - spread eagle – as flattened by death, as we prepare to remember that Jesus embraced death for what it truly is. He wasn’t afraid; He trusted in the Father to save Him – through & beyond and from eternal death!

Besides the Passion account from John’s Gospel, we hear the ‘Song of the Suffering Servant’ from Isaiah, reminding us that life and death aren’t “fair”; but fair, unfair or more than fair, we trust in God. 

A passage from Hebrews 4 then reminds us that Jesus our “great high priest” was “tempted in every way that we are, yet without sin”! He understands when we struggle, & come to Him for mercy & healing!  How awesome is that!

Then, Jesus’ last words in John’s Gospel: “It is finished!” (in Latin: “Consumatus est!”). This is not in despair, but as to say: “I have been used up completely in doing Your Will, Father! There’s nothing left except what You will give to sustain me!”  May we all come to death like that in our own turn!

Petitions, and then the powerful “altar call” to venerate the Holy Cross (to claim our share of its weight and promise) and the reception of Communion complete this portion of the Triduum liturgy. We depart in sober, appreciative silence for the gift of Jesus’ Death.

Holy Saturday + Keeping Vigil-Watch for the “Rising of the Son” and our New Life in Him

We continue the 3rd part of the Triduum Liturgy at dusk tonight – beginning at 8:00pm.  As Jesus ‘went down among the dead’ and spent time with them, we are not afraid to follow Him in the dark....keeping watch, keeping ‘vigil’, like a wake.  Ideally the Vigil would begin sometime near midnight and go until the first rays of dawn! But of course, then nobody would come & ministers would be ‘wiped out’ for any Masses on Easter Sunday morning!

Nonetheless, being a “vigil” that means “waiting”.  The liturgy tonight is about waiting (Don’t worry how long it goes!), and trusting that God will ‘come through’ & do for us that seemingly impossible thing of conquering fear, sin & even death in Jesus.  But waiting demands faith and patience!

*So we kindle the fire to draw us close, like a magnet, to the warmth of Jesus - “A light no darkness can extinguish” & to each other in faith!

*We bless & share that fire and proclaim in the “Exultet”- the Great Truth of the Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead!  It is truly the high point of the Church’s Life, the Church’s Year, the Church’s Hope!

*Then we wait in the dark, but by remembering “salvation history” - reading the Scriptures to call to mind that God has always brought
freedom, hope, healing and virtue! “What God has done, God will do again for us!” (Sister Diane Bergant, CSA)

Eventually (it would be about sunrise ideally), we get to the Easter Gospel; then “All Heaven breaks loose, because all hell is conquered!”  Singing, bells, instruments, voices and returned “Alleluias” galore!!!

*Baptismal Water is blessed; new members (RCIA Catechumens and Candidates) are brought into the Church Family through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation; our own Baptismal Vows are renewed; and the Easter Eucharist is celebrated with as much
splendor and joy as the Church can muster!

And with that, the Triduum is fulfilled (“consummated”); and the first day of the 50 Days of the Great Day of Easter begins for 2018!  What “new life” in the Risen Christ will make itself known in our lives, relationships & this Parish Family of the Resurrection during the Great Day ahead of us?!  Please God, let us be open to it all!  For in it all: the living and dying and rising of Jesus - The Paschal Mystery,

“God does bless us...EVERY one”!

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