“For every single person, the body is the place in which the most internal and the most external meet…”
– Chauvet, The Sacraments, p. 1
I have always found Lent and the Triduum to be my favorite days of our liturgical calendar. I’m often met with strange looks when I confess that to others. In the years I have reflected on it, I think it comes down to the symbols and the rituals we use during these 40+ days. Mass and our liturgies are beautiful throughout the year, but for me nothing compares to the liturgies over these days of the Triduum, where I feel the most connected to my faith.
Last night we celebrated one of the most beautiful liturgies of the year, Holy Thursday. From start to finish, the liturgy engages all of our senses. It is the same liturgy every year and it never fails to move me to tears. The smell of the incense as the procession began was a reminder that it was a special celebration. The loud crashing sounds of the final chimes of the church bells which usually ring hourly but won’t be heard again until the Vigil on Saturday night seemed to reach into the Church and into me. The sight of my community, washing one another’s feet is the most poignant for me. Friends, families, and strangers knelt down at one another’s feet, just as the Scriptures describe Jesus doing, to show the love we have for one another. I watched as they washed with care and genuine love for one another that was palpable. It was such an intimate and beautiful act to witness and be a part of. And seemed to me to be exactly what we need in the world today. The taste of the bread and wine at Eucharist, our last Mass and full celebration until Saturday. And the touch of my knees onto the ground, as we knelt while the procession of the Blessed Sacrament into its place for the evening began.
Today, while our senses are still utilized, the liturgy is largely about absence. The silence through the somber day of prayer and reflection today on Good Friday and into Saturday morning while we wait for the Resurrection seems to bring a certain quiet and hush to my world, one that is constantly full of sights and sounds. The absence and the bareness helps me enter spiritually into these days where I must confront what I need to die to in my own life. It’s uncomfortable and unfamiliar. But we must go through it to get to Easter.
At the Easter Vigil, we will again share in a liturgy that is rich and engages every sense. We begin in darkness, I imagine in those hours between Christ’s death and resurrection, his followers felt like they too were living without light. We will smell the smoke from the fire and hold candles “But now we know the praises of this pillar, which glowing fire ignites for God’s honor, a fire into many flames divided, yet never dimmed by sharing of its light…” (The Exultant). We will hear the story of our salvation history proclaimed followed by the The Exultant, telling us our Easter joy of the sacred night: “This is the night, when Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld.” We will again participate in the celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist and taste the body and blood of Christ. I know that I will feel within me the celebration of God’s love for the world and will share in the joy of Christians throughout the world celebrating together, through all of rich symbols and rituals of this liturgy.