Triduum – One Liturgy, Three Days

Each Holy Week is an invitation to live, die and rise with Jesus.  Central to our Episcopal liturgy is the Triduum, the three days from sundown on the Thursday before Easter to  sundown on Easter Day.   This is all one liturgy, though many miss the first part and essentially arrive late if only present on Easter Sunday.   

Whether you are able to immerse yourself in Holy Week this year in person or online, or whether work and family vacation or duties take precedence, I invite each of us to enter into the liturgy before Easter Sunday.  

Admittedly Thursday – Saturday evening (days one and two), require our willingness to face betrayal, suffering and death, all experiences we prefer to avoid.  Yet, this experience helps us be present to the suffering in the world as Jesus is present in it each day for us and for others. 

Today we gather for a simple meal with friends and share in love by serving one another and washing one another’s feet.  This last can be especially uncomfortable and not because as in Jesus’s day it would have been the job of a servant, but because we avoid gently caring for one another through touch.  Too often touch has been a matter of abuse rather than care.

Let’s appreciate the best of the Agape meal and our love for one another.   For at the conclusion of the meal  Jesus lays out the Eucharist, the full offering of his body and blood through the bread and wine.  This is a sign of his imminent death and gives us a central way to meet Jesus in the future by taking him into our very bodies. 

Tonight we see the direct betrayal of Judas, and the betrayal of friends who flee, and those who deny Jesus, such as Peter.  Let us not just point to Judas as the villain for we all are capable of betraying Jesus by thinking our own way forward is better than God’s.  There is much to be said for seeing Judas’s act as a way of shifting the Jesus movement to a more political basis and a different way of taking care of the poor.  Judas tragically misses the point.

Day one is long and concludes with Jesus’ death and burial, but not before the crowd that once shouted “Hosanna” screams out, “Crucify Him!”  Here again is a moment of personal reflection that we are fully capable of following the crowd, of being confused and afraid and calling for Jesus’s crucifixion.  

Day two allows us space to read and pray while Jesus is in the grave.  He has been buried thanks to Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.  We can sit and pray and ponder in our hearts.

There is no traditional dismissal to the Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday services.  These are all a piece of our liturgy the concludes with dismissal on Easter Sunday.  

Let us take the next two days from tonight to Saturday night to ponder our own tendencies to set God’s agenda rather than listening to God, our ability to betray God and one another, and our capacity to be cruel.   In this may we find deep compassion for ourselves and one another.  In this may we come to know the awe and wonder of God, who loves us so deeply despite our tendencies he suffered and died from faithfulness to that love and a willingness to hold our evil, hatred, fear, and prideful intent.   

With every blessing for a Holy Triduum,

Mother Elizabeth

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