THE “THREE DAYS”
Thursday of this week marks the beginning of the Sacred Triduum (Triduum is Latin meaning “the three days”). From Holy Thursday evening until the end of the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, the Church celebrates the saving passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our Lenten observance has brought us to this moment.
Only one Mass is celebrated on Holy Thursday—the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus, on the eve of His passion, offered His body and blood to the Father under the species of bread and wine, which He gave to the Apostles as nourishment, with the command that they perpetuate the offering in His memory. The Gospel recalls the washing of the feet, expresses the same meaning of the Eucharist under another perspective. Jesus, like a servant, washes the feet of Simon Peter and the other eleven disciples (John 13:4-5). By this prophetic gesture, He expresses the meaning of His life and of His passion as service to God and to His brothers: “For the Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45).
This also occurred at our Baptism, when the grace of God washed us of sin and clothed us in Christ’s nature (Colossians 3:10). This takes place every time that we celebrate the memory of the Lord in the Eucharist: we enter into communion with Christ Servant by obeying His command – to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34; 15:12). If we approach Holy Communion without being sincerely ready to wash the feet of one another, we don’t recognize the Body of the Lord. It is the service, Jesus gives Himself entirely.
On Good Friday, Mass is not celebrated. Rather, at the Liturgy of Good Friday, we meditate on the mystery of Christ’s death, adore the Cross and receive Holy Communion from hosts consecrated the night before. In the final moments of His life, before giving up His spirit to the Father, Jesus said: “It is finished” (John 19:30). What do these words mean, when Jesus says: “It is finished.”? It means that the work of salvation is finished, that all of the Scriptures have found their total fulfillment in the love of Christ, the immolated Lamb. Jesus, by His Sacrifice, has transformed the greatest evil into the greatest love.
“It is finished”. How beautiful it will be when we all, at the end of our lives, with our errors and our faults, as well as our good deeds and our love of neighbor, can say to the Father as Jesus did: “It is finished”; not with the kind of perfection with which He said it, but to say: “Lord, I did everything that I could do. It is finished”. Adoring the Cross, looking to Jesus, let us think of love, of service, of our lives, of the Christian martyrs, and it will do us good too, to think of the end of our lives. Not one of us knows when that will be, but we can ask for the grace to be able to say: “Father, I did what I could do. It is finished”.
Holy Saturday is the day on which the Church contemplates the “repose” of Christ in the tomb. On Holy Saturday the Church, yet again, identifies with Mary: the first and perfect disciple, the first and perfect believer. In the darkness that enveloped creation, she alone stayed to keep the flame of faith burning, hoping against all hope (Romans 4:18) in the Resurrection of Jesus.
And on the great Easter Vigil, Holy Saturday night, in which the Alleluia resounds once more, we celebrate Christ Risen, the center and the purpose of the cosmos and of history; we keep vigil, filled with hope in the expectation of His coming return, when Easter will be fully manifest. At times the dark of night seems to penetrate the soul; at times we think: “there is nothing more to be done”, and the heart no longer finds the strength to love. But it is precisely in the darkness that Christ lights the fire of God’s love. A flash breaks through the darkness and announces a new start, something begins in the deepest darkness. We know that the night is “most night like” just before the dawn. In that very darkness Christ conquers and rekindles the fire of love. The stone of sorrow is rolled away leaving room for hope. Behold the great mystery of Easter! On this holy night the Church gives us the light of the Risen One, that in us there will not be the regret of the one who says: “if only…”, but the hope of the one who opens Himself to a present filled with future: Christ has conquered death, and we are with Him. Our life does not end at the stone of the tomb. Our life goes beyond, with hope in Christ, who is Risen from that very tomb. As Christians we are called to be custodians of the dawn, who can discern the signs of the Risen One, as did the women and the disciples who ran to the tomb at dawn on the first day of the week.
Friends, during these days of the Holy Triduum let us not limit ourselves to commemorating the passion of the Lord, but let us enter into the mystery, making His feelings and thoughts our own, as the Apostle Paul invites us to do: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). Then ours will be a “Happy Easter”.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Tom’s March 25th Message
THE “THREE DAYS”