Living the Triduum today

Originally Appeared in : 9908-4/11/19

We do a disservice to Holy Week and to the Passion of Christ if we view these events solely as preordained outcomes of God’s plan of redemption. What would be the point of God putting on a spectacle for us?


The homage paid to humble Jesus on Palm Sunday is real. The betrayal of Christ on Holy Thursday is real. The crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday is real. The resurrection of Christ on Easter is real. The present tense is required because these events are not locked in the past. They exist in God’s time, not ours.


Thus, the celebration, the suffering, the heartbreak, the devastation, the darkness, the denials, the betrayals, the desolation, the confusion, the fear, the surprise, and the joy exist in the present and are also real. No passion play can bring these events and emotions as alive as they are now.


And the Triduum does not simply remember these events as having passed. The Triduum recognizes their reality in the here and now. As we enter Holy Week, we recognize these events occur in the Body of Christ in our time and place.


First we see the humility of Christ in the faces of those who are powerless and scorned by many, even though they deserve dignity and reverence as children of God. They are often described as criminals and invaders, but their faces and the faces of their children reflect their true status. They enter their Jerusalem at the United States border with Mexico, and many will be turned away or detained. They are paid homage by groups like Catholic Charities’ Humanitarian Respite Center which provides refugees food, clothing, showers, and, most important, compassion.


Holy Thursday we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. At this Mass, people will have their feet washed as Christ washed the feet of his disciples. He who is the greatest among them becomes the least to show the path we are to follow.


Yet how many of us, professed disciples of Christ, behave as if we are the least? We cling to our egos and our positions of power. We expect to retain our privilege and our rank. Are we willing to stoop so low as to wash the feet of a homeless person? A drug addict? A gang member? A criminal? While washing their feet may be unrealistic, we need to acknowledge them, show mercy to them and care for them. But more often than not, we shun them, feel superior to them, and worse, dehumanize them.


Christ instituted the Eucharist on Holy Thursday, and we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper as one body, Christ’s. Yet in churches across the country people are divided by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Rarely do parishioners experience true unity as the Body of Christ. We choose comfort and what is familiar at the expense of sharing life with those who are different from us.


On Good Friday, we reverence the cross, the instrument of Christ’s suffering and death. I’ve heard speakers say that reverencing the cross is the modern equivalent of reverencing the electric chair. The reverencing the cross, an act that feels so familiar and right to us now, would have seemed horrific in Jesus’s time. We remember Christ’s death in such a brutal way as the conduit of our redemption.


Yet the suffering of Christ continues. And we enter into his suffering, and are redeemed by it, when we acknowledge the suffering of all God’s people, regardless of where and who they are.


At the Easter Vigil, we begin in solemn darkness. It is the darkness that we experience when we doubt, when we feel alone, when we are lost, when we lose hope. As a people, we wait for the light of Christ to enter the world. And when that light enters, gradually, from a fire, then the Easter candle, then to the assembly--each person holding a candle, each person exhibiting the light of Christ--we see our role in the resurrection of Christ in the here and now.


We see that the glorious triumph of life over death is not Christ’s alone. We share in that triumph. We share in Christ’s everlasting life, and we share in bringing resurrection to our brothers and sisters. The Alleluia is for us all.


By loving as Christ loves, we restore life to those whose lives feel meaningless and too painful and too burdensome to endure. Through Christ, we bring Easter to the world.


Mary Hood Hart is a freelance writer and educator living in Pittsboro, NC. She can be reached at


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