Reflecting on Christ’s passion and resurrection

Published 3:36 pm Friday, April 15, 2022

We, in the Christian world, are now focused on the observance of the Easter or Paschal Triduum. The last week of the Christian season of Lent, Holy Week is the time of prayer and preparation for Easter.

Holy Week began with Palm Sunday, April 10, this year. Palm branches at Mass reminded us of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. We read The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Gospel passage that describes the suffering and death of Jesus in his last days.

Triduum, commonly pronounced “TRIH-doo-uhm,” comes from the Latin and means “three days,” or known as “The Great Three Days,” the most sacred days in the Church, in preparation of the greatest feast of Easter (the high point of the year).

During Triduum, the traditional Jewish practice of counting days from sunset to sunset is used. Hence, Holy Thursday evening to Good Friday is the first day; Good Friday evening to Holy Saturday evening, the second day, and Holy Saturday evening to Sunday evening the third day.

The Lenten season ends on Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday, the start of the Paschal Triduum.

The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin word “mandatum,” meaning “command or commandment.” Thus, “mandatum novum” is “new commandment.” The “Maundy” in Maundy Thursday refers to the command Jesus gave to his disciples at the Last Supper, that they should love and serve one another. That Love means serving others.

On Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday), Catholic churches all over the world hold Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper to commemorate the Institution of the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Holy Orders or Institution of Priesthood. Priests often renew their vows and we are reminded that we are all part of the body of Christ, through the gift of the Holy Eucharist.

It’s at this Evening Mass that Jesus changed bread and wine into his Body and Blood. He then directed his disciples to carry out the same ritual: “Do this in remembrance of me.” Then, there’s the reenactment of Jesus washing the feet of his apostles to prove to them his sincere love and great humility which they should imitate. Jesus commanded them, “as I have done for you, you should also do.” (Those 12 chosen from among the parishioners are led by the ministers to seats prepared in a suitable place. Then the pastor or priest (who portrays Jesus) goes to each one, and with the help of ministers, pours water over each one’s feet and then dries them.)

The Evening Mass ends with silent prayer and adoration of Jesus’ presence in the Blessed Sacrament.

On Good Friday, church worship services relive or remember Jesus’ crucifixion and death, known as the Passion of Christ, as we, parishioners, venerate the cross. We reverently kneel, kiss, or touch the wood of the cross because this object of pain and death is also the instrument of our salvation. There are readings from the Old Testament and New Testament, but the most important reading is the account of the Lord’s passion and death from the Gospel of John. Then, there’s the prayer of the faith community gathered in the church.

After receiving the communion, we say a final prayer and then leave the church quietly. Our long preparations of fasting and praying, of doing good deeds and listening to the story of Jesus’ life and death will have come to an end. And then it’s time to wait.

Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday evening is the climax of the Triduum, the high point of the liturgical year. It is the time to welcome new members into the church through baptism and confirmation and Eucharist.

Liturgy begins in front of the church, and the faith community gathers around the new Easter fire blessed by our pastor and used to light the Easter Paschal candle, a sign of the risen Christ in our midst throughout the year.

Once inside the church, we hear the Gospel about salvation and the good news proclaiming that Jesus is risen! We hear the great hymn, “Glory to God in the Highest,” sung once again, and we all sing the great Alleluia.

The Elect or catechumens (those who haven’t been baptized into the Catholic faith) are baptized, and they join us to celebrate the new life coming into the church by gathering in front of the altar and, finally, receiving Communion (the Eucharist).

Easter Sunday, or Resurrection Sunday, is a time to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, after His crucifixion and death. The message, “Christ is risen!” is echoed in all Christian churches.

On the other hand, Pope Francis, in his Palm Sunday homily in Vatican City, Rome, Italy, called for an Easter truce in Ukraine to make room for a negotiated peace, underscoring leaders to “make some sacrifices for the good of the people.”

He called for “weapons to be laid down to begin an Easter truce, not to reload weapons and resume fighting. A truce to reach peace through real negotiations.”

He denounced the “folly of war” that leads people to “commit senseless acts of cruelty.” He said, “We see this in the folly of war, where Christ is crucified yet another time.”

May we continue to pray for an end to the war in Ukraine, for peace in Ukraine and Russia, and the rest of the world.

In the Holiness of Easter, in the beauty of spring, may we all know the loving presence of our Risen Lord and King! May God bless us all always.

Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk and Chesapeake. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.