At St Vincent’s, Crookes on 11 March, time was spent exploring the Easter Triduum liturgies with Fr Peter McGuire who started by asking for experiences and impressions of the Triduum. He then explained something of its gradual development. A weekly celebration of Easter only turned into an annual event after quite some time. The Council of Nicaea (AD 325) chose Sunday rather than Good Friday for this and gradually the preceding days were also included. The word “Paschal” as used for Easter probably comes from the Hebrew for “transition”, marking Christ’s passing over from death to life, rather than from the Greek work for “suffering”.
The Triduum, the high point of the Church’s year, is one celebration in three parts. All our liturgies should be celebrated with “noble simplicity” but the Triduum should also find us at our very best. Careful consideration should be given to where and how we celebrate the Triduum and there is encouragement for smaller Eucharistic congregations to come together to form one community. Using different churches for each part of the Triduum can detract from the unity of the experience.
The Gloria opens celebrations at Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper which includes the washing of the feet of a diverse group, including men, women, young, old etc. The instruction about including such variety is now, thanks to Pope Francis, official. We are not being asked merely to copy, but to make our own Christ’s humble example. Communion under both kinds is universally obligatory at this Mass, but our bishops have asked that it should be offered at all Masses so that the symbolism is more apparent.
The Good Friday liturgy is beautifully simple and gentle. “Silence speaks!” And it is not so much a sorrowful occasion but a celebration of Christ’s victory. The vestments are red, not funeral purple. The reading of the Passion according to John and the Solemn bidding prayer precede the veneration of the cross. The cross is the instrument which Christ used for our redemption and so we venerate it. This veneration can take different forms – a kiss, a bow, a genuflection, a touch – especially if the cross is large. Only one cross should be used and if individual veneration would take too long, the cross can be held high for everyone to venerate at the same time. In doing this, some people may miss their individual veneration but the symbol of the one cross is so powerful that it should not be lost.
The Solemn Easter Vigil really must go well! The Paschal candle is lit in darkness, hopefully from a decent fire, so that its symbolism of Christ as the light is effective. In many parishes only a selection of the Readings may be wise and, as they are proclaimed, it is the new light of Christ that helps us to make sense of our history. This is the time for the baptism of adults and the whole community joins in renewing their own baptismal commitment.
Easter, of course, cannot be contained by a day or a week, and so our Easter celebrations will go on for weeks, right through to Pentecost.
Fr Peter ended with a few general points asking that priests and people take a good look at the Missal as we now have it. There have been a number of subtle changes which may not yet have been noticed. The frequent preference for singing rather than saying certain parts of the Mass is certainly there and can be found throughout the Missal.
An edited recording of the talk, along with PowerPoint presentation, will be available on the diocesan website.