As we continue our journey through the Triduum (the Three Days beginning on the evening of Holy Thursday and closing with Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday) , we arrive at Good Friday. Praying on this day helps us focus on the fullness of the Paschal Mystery, the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Before I entered the Catholic Church at my (adult) Baptism in 1985, I had “book knowledge” about the meaning of this day, but not the spiritual understanding and experience of it. Certainly, there is intense sadness in today’s liturgy . And, there also is a remembering, a seeing and a physical experience of the boundless love of God that is expressed in Jesus’ passion and death.
We revere and adore the wood of the cross, because our Savior was nailed there and willingly gave his life for us on it. During a service of the Good Friday Liturgy, we hear the sung words : “Behold the wood of the Cross on which hung the salvation of the world”. And, we respond: “Come let us adore. Then, each of us is invited to come to it, touch or kiss or embrace the cross with the greatest devotion we wish to express.
From my first experience as a “new” Catholic, this act of veneration has been deeply meaningful for me and I am certain it is for you also. As a Deacon, I also am blessed to hold the cross for others to venerate. In the faces of the members of the Assembly, who approach the cross, I witness great devotion expressed through outstretched hands, genuflections, tears, bowing. The very young and the very old, the physically fit and those challenged by aging and infirmities, all God’s people are there to adore.
In our homes this year, confined by the pandemic, we can still make an act of Adoration of the Holy Cross. With a cross or crucifix or an image of one, whether we are alone or with family members, we can pause and spend time in prayer. Perhaps we can sit with the words “I behold the wood of the cross, I come to adore”. We can make a gesture that has meaning for us in accepting the love, forgiveness and everlasting life that flows from that cross.
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
I welcome you to this most solemn time in our Church Year…the Triduum. That is the time when we have completed our journey of Lent and enter fully into the Paschal Mystery, our Savior’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. This year, of course, our experience is markedly different. Due to the precautions we are observing because of the pandemic, we cannot be physically present with one another during our Liturgies. We will experience our Liturgies in a different way, via watching them via livestream. And, we will bring our memories of past years’ Holy Thursdays, Good Fridays, Easter Vigils and Easter Sundays into this year’s Triduum.
As many of you know, I am not a cradle Catholic. I made the decision, in my early thirties, to enter the Catholic Church. Even before becoming Catholic, my memories of Holy Thursday included my awe at the components of the Liturgy, especially the washing of the feet and the removal of the Blessed Sacrament to the Altar of Repose. What was it, especially about the washing of the feet , that so moved me?
The words of the Gospel at this Mass of the Lord’s Supper, accompanied by the ritual of the foot washing by the priest ,amazed me. Here was Jesus, the Son of God, who “… rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.” And, he said: “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me teacher and master, and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” And, there was Father, kneeling before members of the parish, following Jesus’ command, to be a servant of others.
This year, we will hear the words proclaimed but we will not witness the ritual. We will not be in the company of one another gathered together as a community in the church building. But, as we watch and pray from home, perhaps with family members, we can still experience the amazement at Jesus’ actions and we can still ponder his words “ as I have done for you, you should also do”. Perhaps we can reflect on some of the following questions.
When have we experienced someone humbly attending to us in a time of need? When we think of those instances, let us offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the persons who took Jesus’ words to heart and cared for us.
When have we followed Jesus’ example and humbled ourselves to serve those in need? Then, offer a prayer of thanksgiving to God for opening our eyes and hearts to those in need.
Thirdly, have there been times when we have neglected to serve others in need? If so, in prayer, ask for forgiveness and ask for the grace to see and act on the needs of others.
We will make our journey through this Triduum together as we join our hearts in prayer, thanking and praising God for his abundant blessings and for his Son, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.