THE SACRED PASCHAL TRIDUUM
EVENING MASS OF THE LORD'S SUPPER
We should glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. In whom is our salvation, life and resurrection, through whom we are saved and delivered. Galatians 6:14
The celebration of the paschal mystery, the center and summit of the history of salvation, begins on Holy Thursday with the celebration of the evening Mass which commemorates the Lord’s Supper. Our reflection for Holy Thursday is taken from Saint Augustine.
Gospel: John 13:1-15
Jesus showed how perfect was his love.
Commentary: Attributed to Augustine of Hippo
This evening we devoutly recall the sacred day before our Lord’s passion when he graciously took supper with his disciples, willingly accepting everything that had been written or prophesied concerning his sufferings and death, in his merciful desire to set us free. It behooves us therefore to celebrate such mysteries in a manner befitting their magnitude, so that those of us who desire to share in Christ’s sufferings may also deserve to share in his resurrection. For all the mysteries of the Old Testament were fully consummated when Christ handed over to his disciples the bread that was his body and the wine that was his blood, to be offered by them in eternal mysteries and to be received by each of the faithful for the forgiveness of all sin.
In this way Christ showed that as he suffered for our sake in his mortal body in order to ransom us from eternal death and prepare our way to the heavenly kingdom, so, in order to have us as his companions in eternal life, he would be willing to undergo the same things daily for us whenever we celebrated the sacramental reenactment of these sacred mysteries. For this reason he told his disciples: Take this, all of you; this is my body, and this the chalice of my blood, which is shed for all for the forgiveness of every sin. Whenever you receive it, you do so in memory of me.
On the altar, therefore, Christ is present; there he is slain, there he is sacrificed, there his body and blood are received. Christ who on this day his disciples the bread and the cup is the same Christ who today consecrates these elements. It is not the man who handles the sacramental species who consecrates Christ’s body and blood; it is Christ himself, who was crucified for you. By the lips of the priest the words are pronounced; the body and blood are consecrated by the power and grace of God.
And so in all things let the purity of our mind and thought be evident, for we have a pure and holy sacrifice and must train our souls in a corresponding holiness. Having done all that needs to be done, we may then celebrate these sacred mysteries with all simplicity. Let us therefore approach Christ’s altar in a fitting manner, so that we may be counted worthy to share eternal life with Christ, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
(Sermo Mai 143: PLS 2, 1238-1239)
The great Saint Peter Chrysologus (c. 400-450) will continue our reflection on the Triduum for Good Friday. Note that this ancient reflection that goes back to the time of Saint Augustine reflects a Church that was already familiar with this great liturgy of the Church.
Gospel: John 18: 1-19.42
The account of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Commentary: Peter Chrysologus
The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. But what do the sheep gain from the death of their shepherd? We can see from Christ’s own death that it leaves the beloved flock a prey to wild beasts, exposed to depredation and slaughter, as indeed the apostles experienced after Jesus had laid down his life for his sheep, consenting to his own murder, and they found themselves uprooted and scattered abroad. The same story is told by the blood of martyrs shed throughout the world, the bodies of Christians thrown to wild beasts, burnt at the stake or flung into rivers: all this suffering was brought about by the death of their shepherd, and his life could have prevented it.
But it is by dying that your shepherd proves his love for you. When danger threatens his sheep and he sees himself unable to protect them, he chooses to die rather than to see calamity overtake his flock. What am I saying? Could life himself die unless he chose to? Could anyone take life from its author against his will? He himself declared: I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it up again; no one takes it from me. To die, therefore, was his own choice; immortal though he was, he allowed himself to be put to death.
By allowing himself to be taken captive, he overpowered his opponent; by submitting he overcame him; by his own execution he penalized his enemy, and by dying he opened the door to the conquest of death for his whole flock. And so the Good Shepherd lost none of his sheep when he laid down his life for them; he did not desert them, but kept them safe; he did not abandon them but called them to follow him, leading them by the way of death through the lowlands of this passing world to the pastures of life.
Listen to the Shepherd’s words: My sheep hear my voice and follow me. Those who have followed him to death will inevitably also follow him to life; his companions in honor just as those who have shared his suffering will share his glory. Where I am, he says, there shall my servant be also. And where is that? Surely in heaven, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Do not be troubled, then, because you must live by faith, nor grow weary because hope is deferred. Your reward is certain; it is preserved for you in him who created all things. You are dead, scripture says, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, you too will appear with him in glory. What was concealed from the farmer at seedtime he will see as he gathers in the sheaves, and the man who plows in sorrow will harvest his crop in gladness.
(Sermon 40: PL 52, 313-314)
CHRIST IS RISEN! ALLELUIA! The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone! If we have died with Christ, we shall also rise with him and pass from death to life.
The Easter Vigil is the conclusion of the Sacred Triduum. It begins in total darkness and ends in glorious light, a light that is sparked by the risen Christ which is symbolized by the Paschal Candle. We will listen to the Easter Proclamation sung by the deacon who will be encourage us to “Exult” with the “hosts of heaven” at the glorious triumph of our Savior over sin and death. May the glory of the risen Christ fill you with joy and praise.
Our reflection from the Fathers for the Easter Vigil is attributed to Hippolytus of Rome (c. 170-235) who is an important player in the Catholic Church and the many controversies of the second and third century.
Gospel: Luke 24: 1-12
Why look among the dead for someone who is alive?
Now the holy rays of the light of Christ shine forth, the pure stars of the pure Spirit rise, the heavenly treasures of glory and divinity lie open. In this splendor the long dark night has been swallowed up and the dreary shadows of death have vanished. Life is offered to everyone; the whole world is filled with glory. A heavenly light more brilliant than all others sheds its radiance everywhere, and he who was begotten before the morning star and all the stars of heaven, Christ, mighty and immortal, shines upon all creatures more brightly than the sun.
For us who believe in him a glorious day has dawned, a long unending day, the mystical Passover symbolically celebrated by the miracle of divine virtue, a work of divine power. This is the true festival and the everlasting memorial, the day upon which freedom from the tomb, healing from a wound, resurrection from the fall, and ascension into heaven from the descent into hell. So does God perform his mighty works, bringing the incredible from the impossible to show that he alone can do whatever he wishes.
To show that he had power over death Christ had exercised his royal authority to loose death’s bonds even during his lifetime, as for example when he gave the commands, Lazarus, come out and Arise, my child. For the same reason he surrendered himself completely to death, so that in him that gluttonous beast with his insatiable appetite would die completely. Since death’s power comes from sin, it searched everywhere in his sinless body for its accustomed food, for sensuality, pride, disobedience or, in a word, for that ancient sin which was its original sustenance. In him, however, it found nothing to feed on and so, being entirely closed in upon itself and destroyed for lack of nourishment, death became its own death.
Many of the just, proclaiming the Good News and prophesying were awaiting him who was to become by his resurrection the firstborn from the dead. And so, to save all members of the human race, whether they lived before the law, under the law, or after his own coming, Christ dwelt three days beneath the earth.
After his resurrection it was the women who were the first to see him, for as a woman brought the first sin into the world, so a woman first announced the news of life to the world. Thus they heard the holy words, Women, rejoice, for sadness was to be swallowed up by the joy of the resurrection.
O heavenly bounty, spiritual feast, divine Passover, coming down from heaven to earth and ascending again into heaven! You are the light of the new candles, the brightness of the virgins’ lamps. Thanks to you the lamps of souls filled with the oil of Christ are no longer extinguished, for the spiritual and divine fire of love burns in all, in both soul and body.
O God, spiritual and eternal Lord, and Christ, Lord and king, we entreat you to extend your strong protecting hands over you holy Church and over your holy people, for ever devoted to you. Raise high in our defense the trophies of your triumph and grant that we like Moses may sing a hymn of victory, for yours is the glory and the power throughout all ages. Amen.
(Easter Homily: SC 27, 116-118. 164-190)