Lenten Audio Conversations

Transcript of Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday,
and Easter of Lent Conversation

Link to the Audio Conversation | Return to the Audio Conversations Home Page

M = Maureen McCann Waldron
A = Andy Alexander, S.J.


A: Hi. This is the team in the Collaborative Ministry Office, our Online Ministry, doing our conversation about the second half of Holy Week, which is the sacred Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. This is something we’re excited to talk about, because these feast days and celebrations take us real time into the final days of Jesus, and into the meaning of our salvation. Holy Thursday, I think, should be a Holy Day of Obligation. All of us ought to be drawn there that Thursday night to celebrate the meaning of the Eucharist in our discipleship.

M: There is only one celebration on Holy Thursday. It’s at night, its’ in our church, and the whole community comes together for the celebration, and it’s a spectacular liturgy.

A: It is, because in that liturgy we hear, from Exodus, the story of the Passover, and how it’s supposed to be celebrated. We hear Paul tell us the institution of the Eucharist, the story we know so well, from the other Gospels, that “Jesus took bread on the night he was betrayed”, and the way we hear those words in the Eucharistic Prayers, “He broke it, gave it to his disciples. Then he took the cup of wine, and said “This is my blood, do this in memory of me”. But tonight we read John’s Gospel, in which John does that same narrative, but in a symbolic form, the way Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, to show us the meaning of love.

M: And really, that’s what he’s saying, do this in memory of me. Wash each other’s feet.           
A: This gift of myself. That he’s showing us that it’s not about words, this is about deeds. That love involves a sharing of our self, and the one who will, tomorrow, open his arms on the cross, is showing us what this profound gesture of the foot washing, that we are to wash each other’s feet. We are to open ourselves in self donation. That’s the meaning of what we’re celebrating and it brings it together because what we’re going to do is do the Eucharist. We are going to celebrate the Eucharist, where he gives his body and gives us his blood, and says “Do this in memory of me”. It’s so similar to the words he says “I have given you an example, now you love one another”. And of course it’s a marvelous liturgy; we’re all there in anticipation, the entrance procession brings in the sacred oil that we’re going to use.

M: The three different oils we’re bringing, and we kind of call them forth into the community. Three different groups or representatives bring forth the oil of the catechumens.

A: Sacred Chrism, which we use for Baptism, Confirmation, and the Ordination, it’s all of the sacraments of service. We use it to consecrate an altar, a new church, and of course the oil for the sick.

M: And these would have been blessed on Holy Thursday morning at the Chrism mass, or perhaps earlier in the week. Traditionally it was on Holy Thursday morning, and in the main Cathedral, and representatives from every parish and every priest will be there, because Holy Thursday is also a celebration of priesthood.

A: Exactly, and that prism mass in the morning or as you said earlier in the week, all of the priests are there of the diocese, and they make their commitment again, to their promises of priestly service. And it’s really moving if you ever get a chance to go to the Chrism mass.

M: And then the chrism is sent back to each of these parishes, and that’s how Holy Thursday begins, with the carrying in and the presenting of these oils to the parish, and what they represent for the next year of ministry in that parish.

A: And then Holy Thursday has its special role, that at the end of this liturgy, we end quietly. The sanctuary is stripped bare.

M: It’s very dramatic, it’s usually in silence, or with some very solemn music playing in the background, and ritually, people come in, they take each off, the candles, the cross, everything that’s on there, and fold up all the cloths, and you just leave it, quietly.

A: So, in your parish community on Holy Thursday night, try to stay there. Sometimes people think it’s over and leave when the lights go down and things get quiet, but remain there a little bit. We have taken the Blessed Sacrament out of the tabernacle, and it’s reserved in another chapel, or in another part of the church, for adoration that night.

M: And it’s processed around the church, and probably in our church we sing “Tantum Ergo”. It’s one of the oldest hymns in the history of our church.

A: So, we go to an empty church, and even an empty tabernacle, and it’s the night that Jesus is in jail. He’s been arrested in the garden after supper, and the disciples have run away, and there’s a real sense of emptiness and waiting for Good Friday.

M: And the way it ends, there is no dismissal right. There’s no “Go in peace”, because in a sense, this is continued all night long. There’s a sense we are in this vigil with Jesus all night long through his own passion, that he is going through. And then, tomorrow, when we gather for Good Friday, there is no gathering right, because all three of these liturgies, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, are really intricately intertwined. In sense they are all one.

A:  And on Good Friday, we do not celebrate the Eucharist. We have a prayer service on Good Friday that involves a liturgy of the word, veneration of the cross, and communion service, which is using the Eucharist from the day before, that’s been reserved overnight. And it’s like fasting on that day, from celebrating the Eucharist, so that we can focus on the passion of our Lord. So we tell the story, each year from John’s Gospel. Last Sunday, when we celebrated Passion Sunday, we read from one of the other Gospels.

M: They rotate the Synoptics, depending on which cycle it is.

A: So this is John’s Gospel. A great way to prepare for Good Friday is to read that in advance, so we know what’s coming as it’s read solemnly at the Good Friday service.

M: You know, really there’s lots of ways to prepare for this week to kind of enter into it more deeply. We talked about slowing down a little, and kind of decreasing the pace of our life. But reading the Passion, reading pieces of it every day, whether it’s any one of the versions. But taking parts of it every day, just reading it and sitting with it for a few minutes, changes the feeling of our day. Or we can listen to music, you know, Jesus Christ Superstar, or Godspell, or something along the classical music that really enters more deeply into the sacred, anything that moves us into the feeling of this week.

A: And if we’ve read the story and remember it, we can be thinking about the trials that morning, and the actual terrible scene in front of Pilate, and the movement toward that noon crucifixion. And it was traditional in our family, that the time between noon and three o' clock, we would do nothing. We would pray at home, we would do the Sorrowful Mysteries, do the Station of the Cross, but we wouldn’t have conversation or TV or anything going on, because we wanted that to be a sacred time to be grateful; to recognize that this was the gift of our salvation. And usually these Good Friday services are celebrated in our parishes at noon or at three, something like that, or maybe even in the evening if they’re so crowded.

M: And even for those among us who have to go to work that day, we might have to be at the office or at our jobs on Good Friday, we can still carry a sense of that sacredness with us all day, and it’s a fast day, and we can still be with that and then get to church services that night.

A: Great. And this service, as Maureen said, begins quietly and ends quietly.

M:  There’s no dismissal.

A: And so we have an opportunity to stay there. What goes on during it in the center of it, after the liturgy of the word is the veneration of the cross. That’s done in a variety of ways. Some churches have a very large wooden cross, somewhere central, and people come up, touch it, kiss it, embrace it, kneel down in front of it. I used to love the parish I was a part of before. You’d see these elderly people come up, and just lean up against it, wrap their arms around it and kiss it solemnly.

M: I think it’s almost as moving and prayerful, in some ways, to watch the people coming. It is to watch their own love and compassion, and their own devotion, as they’re embracing the cross, as they’re on their knees hugging it or kissing it, or sometimes people come up very shyly and touch it and leave.

A: It’s a very important way for us to remember; to remember him as loving us, to remember him as letting go, and to express our thank you. If I gave you a thousand dollars, you’d throw your arms around me and say thank you. If we get in touch with what this gift is, the privilege of coming up in this ritual way, and saying thank you. That great line, “Behold the one of the cross, on which hung the savior of the world. Come, let us adore”. Beautiful. That leads us to the long wait. Jesus died, lost his life, entered the final way in which he identified with every one of us.

M: How do you spend Holy Saturday, then?

A: Well, Good Friday night and Holy Saturday are feeling the loss. Recognizing what we don’t think about very often, is that he died. He was dead. He was buried, just as we are. Except, before the Resurrection, and we pray or we acknowledge that he descended into hell, means he descended among the dead who had no hope, to tell them that there was hope, and the Resurrection happened on Easter, to restore our hope, to bring salvation to the world. And so we want to celebrate that, and we begin celebrating that with an Easter Vigil.

M: And we begin in the dark.

A: It begins in the dark, but as you asked “What are we doing on Holy Saturday”, we wait. And it’s not easy in this modern world, but I think it’s wonderful to not be running around doing lots of things. We may have guests in town that we have to entertain, we may be visiting somewhere else, we may have lots of errands to do, we will probably have children at home. So there’s many obligations, maybe dinner we have to get ready. But to be thinking about the day, where the tomb has the body of Jesus in it.

M: And what was Mary’s day like, this day, and John, and Peter and James, and all the followers? Their own sense of loss, fear, and bewilderment.

A: All they imagined doing was visiting the tomb. And the way we’ve celebrated for a very long time is to wait in vigil, together in community.

M: The Easter vigil begins in the dark.

A: And we light the fire, usually you’ll see in the back of the church, a big fire that’s lit. And it’s this new fire that we use to light the paschal candle, which is processed to the front of the church in this darkness, and we all receive a candle, which is lit, so that we receive the light from the new candle, which represents Christ itself.

M: It’s a wonderful thing. Here’s suddenly, in minutes, the church is lit up with each one of us holding the light of Christ in our hands that has been spread by each other. We have been given the light of Christ.

A: Then this marvelous prayer is sung, the Exultat, is a way to exalt, to share our joy, and it’s like a Eucharistic Prayer. It gives thanks to God, just like we do in the Eucharistic Prayer. For the joy of this light, and it is on our website, you can find it in a missal or missilette. It’s worth reading before going, because it’s a powerful, powerful song of joy about this light that’s in our midst. After that comes the readings, which are also in the dark.

M: Because we have a number of readings - it’s our salvation history. We go through the Old Testament readings.

A: And these readings are from the Creation story in Genesis, both of them through the Exodus story through the story of the Prophets, there are nine of them there for us to read through the Vigil, waiting; Waiting for the light. And then what happens is we explode as all the lights come up, and we prepare now to read the New Testament, which begins with Paul’s Letter to the Romans.  

M: Because the light of Christ has come.

A: Yeah, and it’s “are you not aware that we who have been baptized are baptized into Christ Jesus, and if we’ve been baptized into his death, so shall we be in his resurrection; All of that preparing us later for the Baptism right.
M: And the elect?
A: Who have been preparing for Baptism, we ask them after the Gospel and the homily, to come up and kneel down, or prostrate themselves, lay flat on the ground. Sometimes they’re dressed in a garment in which they can be baptized, a smock or something, and we pray the Litany of the Saints. We do that at great times. We do that on the occasion of the ordination of a priest. It’s the other way around; we do it on the occasion of the Baptism of an adult, and we do the same thing at the ordination of a priest.

M: There’s something very moving about that. It calls back all the men and women who have been before us. It really calls into our presence, a sense of this long history of our church and the tradition, and it gives me chills at ordinations and it gives me chills at the Vigil at Easter.

A: Then we go to the preparations for the Baptism. And if you’ve ever seen it, it’s really stirring to see these new people desiring Baptism, and the time has come. Whether they’re baptized with water poured over their head, or whether they’re immersed into the water, there’s’ some powerful elements. The first is blessing the water: we take that Paschal candle and we dip it, immerse it in the water, and it reminds us of Jesus as our Savior, himself who entered the waters of Baptism, just as he enters into the tomb. The font becomes both the tomb and the womb out of which there is death and rebirth. And prayers all echo that. 

M: After the Baptism, the people who have been, which there’s such an exuberance and such a joy in the faces of these adults who have just been baptized, and then they’re handed a lit candle.

A: First of all, they’re handed a white garment.

M: That’s right.

A: They go in the back and get dressed in a white garment and they come out in this new white garment, which represents as it does as we’ve seen so many times with the Baptism of babies, receive this this white garment, bring it unstained to the joys of everlasting life. That’s the white garment we put on the casket for a funeral. And then they receive the light of Christ.

M: It’s that candle; it’s the continuity of all of these symbols that come together in wonderful liturgies like this.

A: Actually, before they receive the candle, while they are in their white garments, they are anointed with sacred chrism on their forehead, a cross is made on their, and they’re claimed, as Jesus was anointed, as “Priest, prophet and king”, the words we see in the second Vatican council that describe our role as we are baptized, as Jesus was anointed ”Priest, prophet, and king”, so may you live this life in union with Christ. Powerful stuff. And then, those who are coming for full incorporation into the church, those already baptized as Christians, now come to be confirmed with the same oil, and they are confirmed and given the light of Christ as well. So now, the Eucharist goes forward with these newly baptized, dressed in their white garments, and the people who are newly confirmed, with their candles at their place, and they prepare to receive the third sacrament of initiation: the Eucharist. We had dismissed them, Sunday after Sunday and said “We wait with great expectation to be joined with you at the table of the Lord”, and now, we don’t dismiss them; now they are the faithful with us.

M: And these are the people we have been praying for as a community week after week after week, particularly during Lent. And now we see that they have come to the end of their journey in this wonderful event on this wonderful night.

A: And they receive Communion for the first time, with their sponsors. And what joys in their hearts. I have seen people with tears flowing after they were baptized, and again, when they receive the Eucharist for the first time, and it’s really quite remarkable.  
M: It must be remarkable to be a priest in this setting.

A: Oh, it’s just a great privilege, and it renews my faith and the meaning of Baptism, the precious gift of the Eucharist, and all of the sacraments and how effective they are, and to see the whole community and how wonderful they are. What often is one of the best parts of the evening is the reception afterwards, in which you get to embrace these people, congratulate them, let them know we’re one community. I’ve heard many of them say this is just such a rich part of the evening is to see how happy we as faithful are, that they are now a part of the Body of Christ with us. Sunday morning, when most people celebrate Easter, we want to encourage people, if you’ve have never celebrated the Vigil, it’s just a treat. But maybe you’ve got guests, and you aren’t able to do that, or very young children...

M: Or very young children, or other circumstances.

A: But it is a real treasure of the church to celebrate the Easter Vigil. If you celebrate on Easter Sunday morning, you know the electric feel of walking into that church. There’s music going on, people seem happy, people seemed dressed up a little bit, families seem larger because they’re guests and visitors, and there’s people who perhaps only celebrate a couple times a year, come to Easter, and there’s something alive in the spirit of the church as you gather.

M: And in the Altar, right there very visible, will be the Baptismal font; wherever they were baptized last night.

A: Right, and so as we prepare to move into the last days of Holy Week, keep an eye on what these celebrations are like, and put them on your calendar; talk your family into it, and really enjoy the fullness of what the church offers. I often think of people who say “I didn’t get anything out of it”, often miss the things that are the richest to get something out of, and certainly these days are.

M: And all religious experiences are prepared for, and as Fr. Andy said, on our website, are individual pages on how to prepare for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil.

A: What we do at each of these masses of course for Easter is renew our Baptismal promises. Now, not perhaps with the candidates, but as a community of believers, and it’s a great thing to prepare for; to say “yes, I renounce satan, and all his works. I refuse to be mastered by them”. Wonderful, now to say on Easter after a Lent preparing for this journey.

M: So, enjoy the journey, enjoy the days ahead; they’re very sacred.

A: And let’s give thanks for our salvation. Amen.

M: Amen.

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