Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Easter Triduum

These are the three days leading up to Easter Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. We should be very attentive to everything that is being said and done on these three most blessed days.

On Holy Thursday, the night before Jesus died He gave us the most precious gift, Himself present in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus was with His disciples in the upper room. This was going to be the last time Jesus would have a meal with them before He died. Before sitting down for the meal Jesus washed the disciple’s feet. They could not understand why Jesus, who was their master, would act like a servant and wash their dirt covered feet. The lesson Jesus was trying to teach them was humility and that we are all equal. We are to treat one another with the same love that Jesus had shown them. They then sat down to eat the meal. Jesus took the bread and blessed it and told them that it was His body. He did the same with the cup and wine and told them that this was His blood, take it and drink it. He celebrated the first Mass and told them to celebrate this in memory of Him. Jesus knew that one of the disciples, Judas, was going to betray Him and hand Him over to be killed.

After dinner Jesus and the other disciples left the upper room and went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. The disciples could not stay awake with Him as He prayed. Jesus sweated blood. The hour soon came when Jesus would be betrayed and handed over to be killed. Judas appeared and kissed Jesus’ face. The soldiers arrested Jesus and took Him to the high priests. The high priests questioned Jesus and could not find any fault. They took Him before Pilate, he too could find nothing to condemn Jesus for. He sentenced Jesus to be scourged. This was a very cruel method of flogging someone in those days. They used whips that had bones at the end that would cut and pull your flesh. They stripped Jesus and whipped Him. This was extremely painful for Jesus. After the scourging Jesus was brought before Pilate again. He was going to release Jesus because he had no case to hold him. It was the feast of the Passover and it was customary to release one of the prisoners. The crowd shouted for him to release Barabas, a very bad man. He asked what to do with Jesus. The crowd shouted even louder,”Crucify Him, Crucify Him”. Barabas was released and Jesus was sentenced to death. This all happened on what we call Good Friday. Jesus picked up His cross and started on His way to Calvary. The Cross was big and heavy but Jesus accepted it without complaint. Jesus fell many times along the way, He met His Mother, Veronica wiped His face and Simon of Cyrene helped Him to carry the Cross at the end of His walk to Calvary. When Jesus reached the top of the hill, He was crucified. There were two thieves that were crucified along with Him. One of them joined in with the crowds jeering at Jesus and mocking Him. The other begged for mercy recognizing that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. While on the Cross Jesus gave us His Mother to be Our Mother. Jesus soon died. When Jesus died the earth shook and everyone realized that He was the Son of God. Jesus was taken down from the Cross and placed into the arms of his grieving Mother. Joseph of Aramathaea, follower of Jesus offered his tomb for Jesus to be buried in. The women prepared Jesus body for burial and placed it in the tomb. A large stone was placed over the opening to seal the tomb. The priests remembered what Jesus had said about rising to life three days after He had died so soldiers were placed at the tomb to ensure that no one could go and take His body.

Jesus’ words are always true and on the morning of the third day Jesus had risen. He is alive! On Holy Saturday, the eve of Easter, we celebrate Jesus’ triumphant Resurrection. The Mass is much longer tonight. There are eight readings and Psalms then the Gospel. You can feel the joy all around because we know that Jesus is alive! When the Gloria is sung for the fist time since the beginning of Lent, the church bells are rung in all their glory. We all sing with such joy and happiness. On this night persons who want to become members of our Church are received into the Church. Some are baptized and others profess their faith publicly and some receive their First Holy Communion and the Sacrament of Confirmation. We all renew our baptismal promises on this night also. What a joyful night it is indeed. The Mass continues and after the priest gives us our Easter blessing, the church bells are rung while the concluding hymn is being sung. We all leave happy. Jesus is alive!

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