Now that’s a word for you, isn’t it? There are three syllables: trid –u-um. It is pronounced, trid'-yOO-um. So what is it all about? It’s the Latin word for “three days” and represents the three holiest days of the church year. It begins with the evening of Maundy Thursday (this year it is April 1), is continued through Good Friday with the celebration of the passion of the Lord on Holy Saturday, reaches its high point in the Easter vigil, and concludes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday. On Holy Thursday we remember the Last Supper and that Jesus gave himself in the Eucharist. We recall that Jesus chose his apostles to serve and lead the Church. Remembering that Jesus washed their feet at the Last Supper, the presiding minister sometimes washes the feet of members of the congregation. The word “Maundy” means commandment or mandate. On this day, Jesus gave us a new commandment, “love one another as I have loved you.” The evening worship service of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday is a beautiful and joyful celebration. We recall Jesus call to servant hood and the love he had for us as he gives his body and blood to us in The Lord’s Supper. At the end of the service, the main altar is stripped bare. On Good Friday we remember the death of Jesus. According to an ancient custom, communion is not provided on this day or before the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. The commemoration of the Lord's passion and death may take place in the afternoon or in the darkness of night. There are three parts to the liturgy of the day: the Liturgy of the Word; the Bidding Prayer, and the Veneration of the Cross. On Holy Saturday we meditate on the suffering and death of Jesus. Then the people celebrate the Easter Vigil. The celebration of the Easter Vigil should take place at night, beginning after nightfall and ending before the dawn of Sunday. The Easter Vigil has four parts: The Service of Light; the Liturgy of the Word; the Liturgy of Baptism; and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. During the Service of Light, all the lights in the church are turned off and a fire is prepared outside the church. Then the fire is blessed and the Paschal Candle is lighted from the new fire. The candle is carried into the dark church. It is a sign of Christ, the Light of the World, who has overcome the darkness of sin and death. The lighted Paschal Candle provides the only illumination. Then, from the flame of the Paschal Candle, members of the congregation light the small candles that they are holding. The flame is passed from person to person until everyone is holding a lighted candle. The light from the Paschal Candle and all the small candles provides the only illumination in the church during this portion of the liturgy. This section concludes with the singing of the Easter Proclamation. During the Liturgy of the Word, the story of God's great love for us is proclaimed in readings from the Old and New Testaments. There are seven Old Testament texts. Although it would be preferable that all seven Old Testament readings be proclaimed, the number of readings may be reduced if the circumstances necessitate. Minimally, two Old Testament readings are proclaimed. The readings recall the great events of salvation, beginning with creation itself and were selected to dispose people to celebrate the sacraments of Christian initiation with great faith. During the Liturgy of Baptism, those who have been preparing for Baptism and their godparents are called forward. The presiding ministers then go to the baptismal font, if this can be seen by the congregation. After the candidates are baptized, all present stand with lighted candles and renew their baptismal promises as a sign that they share the new life of Jesus through his resurrection. The newly baptized and confirmed await their first sharing in the Eucharist. The Easter Vigil concludes with the celebration of the Eucharist. This is a joyous sharing in the sacrificial meal of Jesus Christ, Lord and Risen Savior. While most congregations observe Holy Week in three separate services, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Resurrection Day, there are those communities of faith who are returning to the Triduum to fully embrace the three holiest days of the church year as the liturgy flows from one service to another. However we observe this holy time, we need to remember that there is no Easter without Good Friday, there is no empty tomb without a cross, and there is no resurrection without the crucifixion.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Look up “Lent” on Google and you will probably find out all you want about Lent – how it started, why it is named “Lent,” what we are to do, why we do what we do, etc. For many people, it is the most holy season of the church year. For other people, they don’t even know what Lent is all about. For others, they know it starts on Ash Wednesday, it lasts for forty days, excluding Sundays, and ends on Easter Sunday. And for others, who think of the calendar significance of Lent, they know there are a couple special days at the end of Lent, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Furthermore, we know that in the secular world, Lent has its own significance. In certain areas of this nation, the culture acknowledges Lent by celebrating Mardi Gras before Lent, to have a big bash of a party and then to discipline one’s self during the Lenten period.
The questions are: What does Lent mean to you? How does it affect you? Why? Is there a personal component to Lent?
Because of the church calendar and its selection of gospel texts to help guide us during the Lenten season, we may secure some answers, if we wish to. Of course, every Lenten season begins with the story of Jesus being tempted immediately after his baptism. This year, during Lent, we focus on the gospel of Matthew. However, there is a unique series of gospel stories this year. After the temptation of Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew, we turn to the gospel of John. We hear four stories from this unique gospel. The first story, in Chapter 3 of the gospel, tells about Nicodemus coming to visit Jesus by night. The second, from Chapter 4, is the story of Jesus visiting the Samaritan woman at the well. The third Sunday, from Chapter 9, Jesus heals the blind man. The final week, from Chapter 11, Jesus raises Lazarus from death.
In the first story, Jesus tells Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” In the second story the townspeople say, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world." In the third story the conversation between Jesus and the blind man ends with Jesus asking the blind man, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, "And who is he, sir? Tell me, so that I may believe in him." Jesus said to him, "You have seen him, and the one speaking with you is he." He said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped him. And finally, Jesus says to Martha, in the fourth story, before raising Lazarus from death, "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Yes, these stories and the season of Lent are opportunities to deepen our desire to believe in Jesus and with the results of being open to the Spirit, we will experience eternal life, not after death but as we experience our human journey as spiritual beings.
In all of John, and especially in these stories, we find that Jesus is calling us into relationship, a relationship with him that then expands to a relationship with others as we deepen our commitment to him. This belief, this relationship comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. It comes through death, dying to self. This is the story of Lazarus. This is the story of humanity. This is the story of our life in Christ. We die to self. We are raised to a new life in Jesus Christ.
This is a meaning for Lent. It is a highly spiritual meaning. It is a personal meaning. It is a relational meaning. It is a process, not a result. Through this discipline of Lent and our relationship with Jesus, we experience the resurrection of Easter.