Sunday, March 13, 2016

Easter Triduum

   As we consider what we are privileged to take part in over these last weeks of Lent and the Easter Triduum, we first want to share an exerpt from one of Saint Athanasius' Easter letters.  He assisted his Bishop at the Council of Nicaea (325 A. D.). And was named patriarch of the Church in 326 A.D. We are quite familiar with that particular council because it was convened to put down the great Arian heresy that threatened the integrity of The Faith.  Each Sunday we declare the Nicaean Creed with Catholics around the world.  And if you are like us, each day we pray that very creed as a prayer of thankfulness for the constancy of the Christian Faith!  
   St. Athanasius was an intrepid defender of the Catholic Faith, he suffered exile and persecution. But in his exile and persecution he contined to encourage the early Church through his letters.  The following exerpt reminds us of the roots of our Catholic Faith.  And that is what we honor and memorialize in the Easter Tridiuum (more about that afterward).

"The Word who became all things for us is close to us, our Lord Jesus Christ who promises to remain with us always. He cries out, saying: See, I am with you all the days of this age. He is himself the shepherd, the high priest, the way and the door, and has become all things at once for us. In the same way, he has come among us as our feast and holy day as well. The blessed Apostle says of him who was awaited: "Christ has been sacrificed as our Passover." It was Christ who shed his light on the psalmist as he prayed: "You are my joy, deliver me from those surroundiing me." True joy, genuine festival, means the casting out of wickedness. To achieve this one must live a life of perfect goodness and, in the serenity of the fear of God, practice contemplation in one's heart.
   This was the way of the saints, who in their lifetime and at every stage of life, rejoiced as at a feast. Blessed David, for example, not once but seven times rose at night to win God's favor through prayer. The great Moses was full of joy as he sang God's praises in hymns of victory for the defeat of Pharaoh and the oppressors of the Hebrew people. Others had hearts filled always with gladness as they performed their sacred duty of worship, like the great Samuel and the blessed Elijah. Because of their holy lives they gained freedom, and now keep festival in heaven. They rejoice after their pilgrimage in shadows, and now distinguish the reality from the promise.
   When we celebrate the feast in our own day, what path are we to take? As we draw near to this feast, who is to be our guide? Beloved, it must be none other than the one whom you will address with me as our Lord Jesus Christ. He says: "I am the way." As blessed John tells us: "it is Christ who takes away the sin of the world." It is he who purifies our souls, as the prophet Jeremiah says: "Stand upon the ways; look and see which is the good path, and you will find in it the way of amendment for your souls."
   In former times the blood of goats and the ashes of a calf were sprinkled on those who were unclean, but they were able to purify only the body. Now through the grace of God's Word everyone is made abundantly clean. If we follow Christ closely we shall be allowed, even on this earth, to stand as it were on the threshold of the heavenly Jerusalem, and enjoy the contemplation of that everlasting feast, like the blessed apostles, who in following the Savior as their leader, showed, and still show, the way to obtain the same gift from God. They said: "See, we have left all things and followed you." We too follow the Lord, and we keep his feast by deeds rather than by words.
--St. Athanasius, Bishop and Doctor of the Church

It may be that it has been awhile since you contemplated the gravity of the Mass and Jesus as the Paschal Lamb. It may even be that you are going through the motions of the Sacred Mass and the Easter Tridiuum without contemplating the eternal significance of our worship and devotion.  When we pray the Liturgy of the Word and consume his body in the Holy Eucharist,  we are "standing as it were on the threshold of the heavenly Jerusalem" where the everlasting Feast is now and forever will be celebrated through worship of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. .  
   The Catechism instructs us on how our worship in the Easter Triduum is a culmination of the entire Liturgical year (Sacred Mass, the Holy Days of Obligation, Feast days; and our participation in the Holy Sacraments). "Beginning with the Easter Triduum as its source of light, the new age of the Resurrection fills the whole liturgical year with its brilliance. Gradually, on either side of this source, the year is transfigured by the litury. It really is a "year of the Lord's favor." The economy of salvation is at work within the framework of time, but since its fulfillment in the Passover of Jesus and the ourpouring of the Holy Spirit, the culmination of history is anticipated "as a foretaste," and the kingdom of God enters into our time.
   Therefore Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the "Feast of feasts," the "Solemnity of solemnities," just as the Eucharist is the "Sacrament of sacraments" (the Great Sacrament). St. Athanasius calls Easter "the Great Sunday" and the Eastern Churches call Holy Week "the Great Week." The mystery of the Resurrection, in which Christ crushed death, permeates with its powerful energy our old time, untill all is subjected to him." (CCC#1168, 1169)

   Let's now turn our attention to the Easter Triduum with St. Athanasius and the Catechisms' words in mind.  Part Two of this post will include some links and resources for your consideration as you prepare for the Triduum.

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