Friday, April 10, 2009

Holy Week - The Triduum

Finally, we arrive at the Triduum -- almost at the very foot of the Cross.
As usual I am limping into Holy Week, my soul caked with failed resolutions, splattered with the mud of my failures, and all my imperfections intact. They ride upon my shoulder mocking me and pulling at my beard (actually I jettisoned the Lenten beard about 3 weeks ago, no longer able to withstand the discomfort and embarrassment.)
And so I stand here on the brink of failure.
But little do they know, for my Savior does not share my weaknesses and imperfections. He, strong beyond strength, trudges on to Calvary in my place. He is Holy, He is Perfect, He is preparing even now to withstand the loneliness of the garden at Gethsemane. He knows what He must do, and He alone is strong enough to withstand it. He will save me. He will.
Holy Thursday
Last evening we made it to our Latin Mass parish for Maundy Thursday Mass. The church itself and the holy images of Christ on the crucifix, the saints obscured now in dark purple -- representing penance -- a reminder of how spare and joyless this world would be without the presence of God and Christ. "The world would easier survive without the sun, than without the Mass" said Padre Pio, according to our pastor. Even the holy water fonts are dry, as a reminder of the spiritual poverty we are about to face.
Holy Thursday Mass is a memorial of the Last Supper at which Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist ("My flesh is real food, my blood is real drink") hidden beneath the auspices of bread and wine. He is really and truly present on the altar -- the priest an alter Christus ("another Christ") who has been given the power to re-produce Christ's sacrifice on the altar before him.
We watched as twelve of my friends -- men every bit as holy, and because they are men, every bit as sinful as I am -- patiently waited while our good and holy priest, Fr. Peter Byrne, FSSP, humbly washed their feet in imitation of our Savior who washed the feet of the twelve disciples on that Thursday night two millennium before.
After Communion and Mass is finished, the Blessed Sacrament -- Christ's actual body, blood, soul and divinity -- solemnly processed around the interior of the church while the congregation led by the crystal voices of our women's schola, sang the Latin hymn the Tantum Ergo (Google it) to the altar of repose. Whereupon the main altar was stripped of its altar cloths and the remaining six candlesticks which mark the traditional Mass arrangement, finally the Gospel is repeated: "Diviserunt sibi vestimenta mea: et super vestem meam miserunt sortem" ("They parted my garments amongst them: and upon my vesture they cast lots.")
The rubrics of the traditional Mass say here, simply and finally: "The celebrant and sacred ministers [servers] return in silence to the sacristy."
Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

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