Acts 9:1-19a or
Ps 33 or 33:1-11
Fr Nathan Baxter
Never before had I heard the word ‘Triduum.’
The word was a total mystery to nearly all of us the seminary students who come to ASAC. In fact, one of us had even suggested that textbook pronunciation of the word was actually “tri-doom”—as in “the three dooms”—which made sense for a while considering that it was a set of three church services happening in succession with believably (not theoretically) no stops in between them.
I was not present for the Maundy Thursday service, but I heard that there was some holy drama involved, namely, the passionate stripping of the altar.
One thing I loved about the tridoom, rather the Triduum, was that I didn’t have to attend the service before in order to know what transpired it. I think the right word for it is continuity. When I came to the Good Friday service, I sensed that something was different. For starters, the altar had been stripped, and the cross which stood at the entrance of the sacristy was wrapped in black cloth.
The other thing that stood out was the Eucharist. We celebrated the Eucharist with unconsecrated elements. Actually, they had been consecrated during the service before the Good Friday service. And I also do not remember receiving a final blessing.
The Triduum as we came to learn is an extended service that never ends until the whole ceremony is done—from the Maundy Thursday service to the Great Vigil on Holy (or Silent) Saturday. What look like stops in between the services are actually pauses—or gasps, if you will. The final blessing, as well as the dismissal, are reserved for the last service, the Great Vigil.
The blessing of the Triduum is that it forced us to sit, listen and observe. Isn’t it Michael Horton who said that “Don’t just do something, sit there”? Well, during these three services, we sat. And we did not just sit, we sat there.
There with our Lord as he was betrayed and arrested. There with him as put Malchus’s ear back on the side of his face after Peter had chopped it off. There with the Lord as he was being taken to a sham trial in the dark of the night.
We sat there as accuser after accuser picked out Simon Peter for being a member of Jesus’s party. We were also there as Peter, shamelessly overcome by the sinful condition, denied knowing his best friend three times. We heard all three accusations, all three denials because were there with Peter as the cock crowed.
We were there examining every whip, seeing Jesus bleed. We heard every insult that hurled at him. In fact, we shouted “crucify him” because we were there. We spat on him, insulted him, and he heard us because we were there with him.
We were there as he carried his cross to the pace of skulls. We followed along at a distance, but nonetheless, we were there. With Judas, we betrayed him. With Peter, we denied him. With the crowd, we shouted, “crucify him!”
And crucified he was. We were there. When he was crucified, we watched, and when he prayed to his Father to forgive us, we were also there. We saw him breathe his last.
We were there when God died.
We followed him to his tomb and together with the Roman soldiers, we waited on the other side of the large stone which sealed his tomb.
On the third day, we were there when the women heard the Good News of the Resurrection. We were also there with the disciples as they locked themselves up in fear of the Jews. And on that dusty road leading to Emmaus, we were there listening in on the conversation as Jesus taught a “Christ in the OT” session to his doubting disciples. Then, in the breaking of bread, we saw him. He was standing there with us.
The Triduum, with scripture as its ship transported us back into history to experience first-hand, our sin and guilt which took Jesus to the cross and his victory which is now ours. The victory we can never deserve but is nonetheless ours to keep forever.
We were there as the scriptures preached to us that its words are “trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”-and [we] are the worst of them.” The triduum drew us into the Gospel account as unworthy recipients of an unfathomable gift of Grace.
It is not a “tri-doom” after all. Praise the Lord!