"The Resurrection" by Peter Paul Rubens, 1640 Public domain

The Easter Triduum leads to understanding of Passion

By  Fr. Yaw Acheampong
  • March 26, 2018

On Ash Wednesday, the mark of ashes on our foreheads led us into our journey of faith in the Holy Season of Lent. Throughout this journey, we have tried to make some progress in our spiritual lives so we can be ready to celebrate Easter. 

Many people consider Good Friday and Easter Sunday as the two distinct days on which the Church celebrates the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Based on Scriptures, this is true. However, for us to understand the spirituality of Easter, we journey through a three-day period known as Easter Triduum, a period that stretches from the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday evening, through to Easter Sunday evening and includes Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. During this period Mother Church “solemnly celebrates the greatest mysteries of our redemption, keeping by means of special celebrations the memorial of her Lord, crucified, buried and risen.”

The celebration of the Easter Triduum helps us to understand the deeper meaning of the passion, death and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It also helps us to understand our own journey of faith as Christians, and to ponder the events leading to our redemption. 

The first stage of our journey is on Holy Thursday when we celebrate the evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. At this celebration the Church reenacts all that took place “on the night that Jesus was betrayed” — the institution of the Holy Eucharist by Jesus, the gift of the priesthood and our call to serve each other symbolized by Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. After the Mass, we have a period of adoration of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament in an appropriate place until midnight. 

When we visit a church on Good Friday, the Blessed Sacrament is absent, crosses have been veiled or removed, the altar is bare and no holy water is at the door. We can feel the “emptiness” and the “darkness” in the church. We solemnly celebrate the liturgy of the Passion and the Death of our Lord on Good Friday at 3 p.m., the time according to Scriptures when our Lord died on the cross. On the edge of sadness all seems lost on Good Friday — “darkness has come over the whole land” and has conquered the light. 

On the next day, Holy Saturday, we enter the third and the last stage of our journey to celebrate Easter. We feel the anxiety and the anticipation as we prepare for the celebration of the Easter Vigil. 

The Easter Vigil is considered as the high point of the Christian year. The celebration is full of symbolism. It begins in the night and outside of the front door to the church where the Paschal Candle (representing the Risen Lord in His glory) is lit from a specially prepared bonfire. Then the faithful with candles are led by the priest or the deacon carrying the Paschal Candle into the church full of darkness.

In the church, the Easter Proclamation known as Exsultet is proclaimed. The night is described as “truly blessed,” with “sanctifying power” and “shall be as bright as day.” Baptism and reception of new members into the Church community takes place at the Easter Vigil Mass. The Easter Vigil celebration foretells of the light of hope of Easter and leads us into the celebration of Easter Sunday. 

Easter Sunday is when we encounter the Risen Lord in the living reality of the present, in the community of believers and in the world around us. The resurrection of Jesus from death brings us a new beginning, a new creation and a new hope. 

As we rejoice at the celebration of Easter we also hope to become faithful witnesses who bring the victory of life over death and light into the world through our good works of love, justice and peace to others. 

Now is the time for us to rejoice and shout “Alleluia” — for the Lord is truly risen.

(Fr. Acheampong is the pastor at Our Lady of Peace Parish in Scarborough, Ont.)

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