The Paschal Mystery in Three Acts

by Rev. Jeff Loseke

This week, during the Sacred Triduum, the Church invites you to participate in the very mysteries that merited salvation for you and for all.  “Triduum” literally means “three 800px-Triduum_Pascal_St_Léger_d'Orvault_02.jpgdays” and commemorates the events of the Paschal Mystery from the evening of Holy Thursday to the evening of Easter Sunday.  The Triduum begins with the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, which recalls Jesus’ Last Supper with His Apostles.  The Gospels remind us that on this night, Jesus instituted the Eucharist, washed His Apostles’ feet, and went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.  At the Mass of the Lord’s Supper we do the same: the Eucharist is celebrated as usual, the Priest washes the feet of twelve parishioners, and the Blessed Sacrament is taken to a side altar for adoration throughout the night.

Holy Thursday’s Mass has no formal conclusion… it simply ends.  The liturgy commemorating the Lord’s Passion on Good Friday has no formal beginning… it simply picks up where Thursday’s Mass left off.  The altar has been stripped, and the tabernacle stands empty: Jesus has been arrested and has been taken away to die on the Cross.  The Passion from John’s Gospel is proclaimed and the faithful have the opportunity to venerate the Cross, paying homage to the Tree of Life on which was hung their Savior.  Afterwards, Holy Communion is distributed.  Since no Mass is permitted on Good Friday, there must be enough hosts in reserve from the Mass of the Lord’s Supper from the day before.  This liturgy has no formal conclusion either.  Everyone departs in silence, leaving us with an eerie sense of emptiness.

Finally, the Easter Vigil begins in the darkness where Good Friday left off.  A fire is lit, and the Easter Candle emerges, scattering the darkness of death with its Resurrected light.  This candle represents Jesus Himself risen from the grave!  The whole Church is reborn on this night.  The Liturgy of the Word consists of many readings, retracing the promise of salvation up until the coming of the Messiah.  The Gloria and Alleluia are reintroduced to the congregation by the Priest, and the waters of Baptism are blessed.  Those being baptized and/or confirmed are brought into full union with the Church, and every believer reaffirms his or her own baptismal promises.  The Eucharist is celebrated, and the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the tabernacle again.  This liturgy concludes what was begun on Thursday night, and the final blessing is imparted at long last.  These are liturgies not to be missed.  If you regularly attend them, you know of what I speak.  If you have not been to them before, then I invite you to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord” in these, the Church’s most beautiful and moving rites.

 

The Reverend Jeffery S. Loseke is a Priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha and is currently the pastor of  St. Charlccn_father-les Borromeo Parish in Gretna, Nebraska.  Ordained in 2000, Fr. Loseke holds a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (S.T.L.) from the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm in Rome and is working to complete his doctoral degree (Ed.D.) in interdisciplinary leadership through Creighton University in Omaha.  In addition to parish ministry, Fr. Loseke has served as a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, taught high school theology and college-level philosophy, and has been a presenter for various missions, retreats, and diocesan formation days across the country.

 

Art: Triduum Pascal St. Leger d’Orvault (Wikimedia Commons)