Friday, March 21, 2008

The Triduum

All over the world, Christians are remembering and re-enacting the last three days of the life of Jesus. It is called the Triduum. Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday each have a special service to commemorate the events leading up to the Resurrection. I am not a scholar of religion, but I know that other great and small religious traditions also have high holy days when their aspirants reenact the ways of God in this world. Christianity is not unique in its attempt to ritualize and therefore remember the presence of God among us.

I have read that it is best to probe deeply into one’s own tradition so as to best understand its riches. If people are not satisfied with the tradition into which they were born, it is possible that they have not taken the effort or the time to savor its tradition, its depth. All religious traditions run like deep rivers through the many landscapes of history. Each offer possibilities of goodness, grace and hope for those who drink from and live near their waters.

These three days always give me pause to ponder the mystery of one life, that of Jesus, and what it has to do with us. He called upon people to drastically expand their horizons and in doing so provoked anger from those who would not let go of the familiar, the prejudicial, the places that power had afforded them.

We are all familiar with the story.

We are, as well, all familiar with the closing chapter – that of Easter.

But it seems to me that we somehow experience the meaning of the Triduum more so than we do Easter. We do not yet live fully resurrected lives. I do, however, think that we already share in part in the grace of that long ago morning.

These three days touch deeply on many traits that are common to us all. There is the prelude of Palm Sunday, which sets the stage for the Triduum. Jesus is greeted with joy and alleluias galore by people who will soon turn upon him and call for his death. Holy Thursday calls to mind the Last Supper, the intimate gathering of Jesus with his disciples and the unfolding of the plot by Judas to betray him for thirty pieces of silver. Good Friday is a day of violence, dashed hopes, betrayal and death. On Holy Saturday, the Creator will sleep in death, laid to rest in a tomb by those who loved him and who hoped he would never leave them. The readings give a sense that the world fell into darkness with the absence of Jesus.

Easter is not ours to truly yet know. As I write this, there are accounts of more violence all over the world. People are routinely blowing up themselves and others. Numerous places are torn by violence. We long for peace and yet we do not know how to make it come about.

We are encouraged to look to Sunday for our definitive hope. But I think we are as well encouraged by the events of the Triduum to look at our Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays as these are living symbols of ordinary life as we know it, with all its joys and sorrows, promises and betrayals, peacemaking and violence. The mystery that is Easter shines on each and effort that we have at our disposal, in the seeming ordinariness of our lives, to live and act with hope. We all fail. We all know denial. We all greet good days with joy and renounce and avoid as best we can those days when troubles far outweigh the joys. This life is our journey, our Triduum. Our hope is that someone went through it all and rose from it and came back, is here, is with us. That is, I think, the real meaning of these days. No road in life is away from God, for he lives on every one of them. We are asked to walk together through our days, and to be of comfort and strength to each other despite our weaknesses and our refusal at times to embrace the good.

Someone came to us with a light and way of loving far more powerful than our own. And he shared that with us that we might have hope. To live the mystery that is Easter Sunday is to persevere through these three dark days, when it seemed that all was lost but through which everything was ultimately found.

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