For communities that want to involve the whole community in worship, the guiding principle has to be that all liturgy is centered on the Triduum.
The Triduum is the climactic three-days of the liturgical year that begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and ends with evening prayer on Easter Sunday. You have to think of the Triduum as something like the Olympics. It is one reality that spans several days. There are multiple events, and you might not get to all of them. Some, however, are “don’t miss” events. We don’t think of the distinct days of the Olympics. We only think of the single phenomenon: “The Olympics.” If we think of the Triduum as distinct days with distinct liturgies, we will miss the point.
And the point is this: The Triduum is our fullest, most complete expression and understanding of Jesus Christ. You can’t write a text book on Christology or make a movie about the Passion that tells us as much about who Jesus is as does the Triduum. The entire liturgical effort of every Christian community is about telling the story of Jesus in the Triduum every year.
Why do we have a liturgical year?
To understand why the Triduum is our best expression of Jesus (the real presence) we have to recall the purpose of the liturgical year in general. That is difficult because we have, in a sense, over-decorated the room. The Second Vatican Council had a very clear vision of the purpose of the year:
Within the cycle of [the Church] year, moreover, she unfolds the whole mystery of Christ, from the incarnation and birth until the ascension, the day of Pentecost, and the expectation of blessed hope and of the coming of the Lord. (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 102)We have filled up most of our Sundays with a whole host of universal, national and local causes and themes that regularly disrupt the flow of the year. Click To Tweet
Each Sunday of the year is supposed to be a bit of a tour through the the story of Jesus. However, we have filled up most of our Sundays with a whole host of universal, national and local causes and themes that regularly disrupt the flow of the year. Instead of illuminating the mystery of Christ, the Sundays of the liturgical year often become a platform for second collections, commissioning of ministers, political causes, fund raising, or notes from the bishop.
How to refocus on the Paschal mystery
To celebrate the liturgical year in a way that leads us to and flows from the Triduum, we have to strip Sundays of all their external themes. We have to restore Sunday worship to the ongoing celebration of the mystery of Christ. The mystery of Christ, the Paschal mystery, is the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection.
Therefore the Easter Triduum of the passion and resurrection of Christ is the culmination of the entire liturgical year. Thus the solemnity of Easter [Triduum] has the same kind of preeminence in the liturgical year that Sunday has in the week. (General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, 18)
The three-day Triduum is, in a sense, our biggest, grandest Sunday. Or, perhaps more correctly, every Sunday is a small version of the Triduum. We have to get rid of all the excess, focus on the essential elements of the Paschal mystery and get back to celebrating liturgy in a way that clearly flows from and leads to the annual memorial of Christ’s death and resurrection in the Triduum.
In a future post, we’ll look at when to start planning for the Triduum.
See also these related articles:
- Christ our compass
- You are witnesses
- Bulletin Shorts for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
- The four dangers of weak liturgy
- We will need courage for parishes of the future
- Liturgical principles to guide your planning
- Live in closeness
- Bulletin Shorts for the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
- Bulletin Shorts for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
- Involve everyone in worship: Singing our way to the Triduum — Part 4