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Paschal Triduum: Services And Reflections

  • Holy Thursday

    As we enter into the Paschal Triduum in which we remember the mysteries of the Lord’s passion, Death and Resurrection, we place ourselves in the presence of God and ask God to strengthen us with the gifts of mercy and peace in these Holy Days.

    Let us pray:

    O God, who have called us to participate
    in this most sacred Supper,
    in which your only begotten son,
    when about to hand himself over to death,
    entrusted to the Church, a sacrifice new
    for all eternity,
    the banquet of his love, grant, we pray
    that we may draw for so great a mystery
    the fullness of charity and of life.
    Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son,
    who lives and reigns with you
    in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
    one God, for ever and ever. AMEN

    A Reading from the Gospel of John. (John 13: 1-15.)

    Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Master, are you going to wash my feet?”

    Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.” Jesus said to him, “Whoever has bathed has no need except to have his feet washed, for he is clean all over; so you are clean, but not all.” For he knew who would betray Him; for this reason, he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

    So when he had washed their feet and put his garments back on and reclined at table again, he said to them, “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

    The Gospel of the Lord.

    Praise to you, Lord, Jesus Christ.

    REFLECTION

    In Today’s Gospel, Jesus asks an important question to his disciples gathered in the upper room with him as well as for us. He asks them, “Do you understand what I have done for you?” He just washed their feet. They probably did not understand this at all. It was the custom that when guests came to your house, their feet were washed since they would be dirty from the roads. You would normally have a servant do this. For the Jewish people, to avoid ritual impurity, they would have a gentile slave do this, if they could afford one. But no matter what, the head of the house or a person of honor would never wash another’s feet. Yet Jesus, who they call Master and teacher, does this lowly task. We can only imagine the discomfort of the disciples as they see Jesus do this menial task. This is more than the well organized and orchestrated ritual we often do on Holy Thursday evening during the Liturgy where the Pope, bishop or local pastor washes the feet of 12 people representing the 12 Apostles. In the Last supper account, John does not give the institution of the Eucharist.as the Synoptic Gospels do. John gives the institution of the Eucharist in the Bread of Life Discourse in the 6th chapel of his Gospel. To understand what the washing of feet signifies, we need to see it in relation to the Eucharist and the mystery of the Cross.

    Jesus, in washing the feet of the disciples, takes the role of the slave. We heard this on Palm Sunday in the letter to the Philippians. We read “...He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” Jesus takes on the most menial work that only a slave would do – to wash the dirty dusty feet of others. He gives himself totally in service to others. In the mystery of the Eucharist, Jesus empties himself out to share with us the gift of Himself to be our food and drink. St. Francis of Assisi was awestruck and overwhelmed by the mystery of the self-emptying of Jesus in the Eucharist and in the Cross. He writes in a letter to the friars:

    Look, brothers, at the humility of God And pour out your hearts before Him... Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves so that He who gives himself totally to you may receive you totally.

    Jesus, as the Servant of God, who we hear in the 4 songs of the Servant of God from Isaiah, gives himself totally and surrenders himself as that servant in the washing of the feet, in the Eucharist and in the embrace of the wood of the Cross on Good Friday. In the embrace of the Cross, He empties himself and shows forth the Love and the Mercy of God. Christ holds nothing back for us.

    This Gospel calls us beyond a nice ritual celebrated in the Liturgy on Holy Thursday. For most of us, this will not be celebrated this year because of the pandemic. Yet, Jesus calls us to radical service. A call to service that can be dirty, challenging and uncomfortable. We see it right now every day in the midst of this pandemic. Doctors, nurses, other health care workers and first responders are risking their lives to help and serve those affected by covid-19. They are risking their health and their own needs to serve others in this crisis. We see this in the news of their working under incredible stress and hardships. They have put their personal lives on hold to serve others. They show us in a radical way what Jesus was teaching his disciples in that upper room and us as well 2,000 years later. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” Do we really understand?

    After reflecting on the Gospel, we bring our prayers and concerns to the Lord especially prayer for all in the medical community who are serving other in this pandemic, for those who are ill with the Covid-19 and for those who have died. We pray in the words Jesus gave us.

    If possible, let us try to spend some time in silence this day so that we can more deeply into the mysteries of the Triduum.

  • Good Friday: The Passion Of The Lord

    If possible, try to offer this time of prayer and reflection at 3 p.m. or later. It is usually the time that the Church begins the solemn Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion. As we begin, we place ourselves in the presence of the Lord and ask the Lord for the grace to enter into the mystery of His Cross and Death. < /p>

    LET US PRAY:

    Remember your mercies, O Lord, And with your eternal protection Sanctify your servants, For who Christ your son, By the shedding of his Blood, Established the Paschal Mystery. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. AMEN

    The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John (18:1 –19:42)

    Jesus went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to where there was a garden, into which he and his disciples entered. Judas his betrayer also knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas got a band of soldiers and guards from the chief priests and the Pharisees and went there with lanterns, torches, and weapons. Jesus, knowing everything that was going to happen to him, went out and said to them, “Whom are you looking for?” They answered him, “Jesus the Nazorean.” He said to them, “I AM.” Judas his betrayer was also with them. When he said to them, “I AM, “ they turned away and fell to the ground. So he again asked them, “Whom are you looking for?” They said, “Jesus the Nazorean.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I AM. So if you are looking for me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill what he had said, “I have not lost any of those you gave me.”

    Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it, struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear. The slave’s name was Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its scabbard. Shall I not drink the cup that the Father gave me?” So the band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus, bound him, and brought him to Annas first. He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had counseled the Jews that it was better that one man should die rather than the people.

    Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Now the other disciple was known to the high priest, and he entered the courtyard of the high priest with Jesus. But Peter stood at the gate outside. So the other disciple, the acquaintance of the high priest, went out and spoke to the gatekeeper and brought Peter in. Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter, “You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire that they had made, because it was cold, and were warming themselves. Peter was also standing there keeping warm.

    The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his doctrine. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken publicly to the world. I have always taught in a synagogue or in the temple area where all the Jews gather, and in secret I have said nothing. Why ask me? Ask those who heard me what I said to them. They know what I said.” When he had said this, one of the temple guards standing there struck Jesus and said, “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong; but if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?” Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

    Now Simon Peter was standing there keeping warm. And they said to him, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the one whose ear Peter had cut off, said, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with him?” Again Peter denied it. And immediately the cock crowed.

    Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the praetorium. It was morning. And they themselves did not enter the praetorium, in order not to be defiled so that they could eat the Passover. So Pilate came out to them and said, “What charge do you bring against this man?” They answered and said to him, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” At this, Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves, and judge him according to your law.” The Jews answered him, “We do not have the right to execute anyone, “ in order that the word of Jesus might be fulfilled that he said indicating the kind of death he would die. So Pilate went back into the praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.”

    So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

    When he had said this, he again went out to the Jews and said to them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I release one prisoner to you at Passover. Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this one but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a revolutionary.

    Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged. And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they struck him repeatedly. Once more Pilate went out and said to them, “Look, I am bringing him out to you, so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And he said to them, “Behold, the man!” When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” Now when Pilate heard this statement, he became even more afraid, and went back into the praetorium and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” Jesus did not answer him.

    So Pilate said to him, “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above. For this reason the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” Consequently, Pilate tried to release him; but the Jews cried out, “If you release him, you are not a Friend of Caesar. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.”

    When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus out and seated him on the judge’s bench in the place called Stone Pavement, in Hebrew, Gabbatha. It was preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon. And he said to the Jews, “Behold, your king!” They cried out, “Take him away, take him away! Crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your king?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” Then he handed him over to them to be crucified.

    So they took Jesus, and, carrying the cross himself, he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus in the middle. Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus the Nazorean, the King of the Jews.” Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write ‘The King of the Jews,’ but that he said, ‘I am the King of the Jews’.” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.”

    When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four shares, a share for each soldier. They also took his tunic, but the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top down. So they said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it will be, “ in order that the passage of Scripture might be fulfilled that says: They divided my garments among them, and for my vesture they cast lots. This is what the soldiers did. Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

    After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth. When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

    Now since it was preparation day, in order that the bodies might not remain on the cross on the sabbath, for the sabbath day of that week was a solemn one, the Jews asked Pilate that their legs be broken and that they be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out. An eyewitness has testified, and his testimony is true; he knows that he is speaking the truth, so that you also may come to believe. For this happened so that the Scripture passage might be fulfilled: Not a bone of it will be broken. And again another passage says: They will look upon him whom they have pierced.

    After this, Joseph of Arimathea, secretly a disciple of Jesus for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate if he could remove the body of Jesus. And Pilate permitted it. So he came and took his body. Nicodemus, the one who had first come to him at night, also came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes weighing about one hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and bound it with burial cloths along with the spices, according to the Jewish burial custom. Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.

    THE GOSPEL OF THE LORD.

    PRAISE TO YOU, LORD JESUS CHRIST.

    REFLECTION

    The Liturgy for Good Friday is quite somber and simple. There is no Mass today. It is a Liturgy of the Word with a communion service. The Paschal Triduum is actually arranged that it is meant to be seen as one continuous liturgy beginning with Holy Thursday, today and ending late Saturday with the Easter Vigil. Last night, the focus was on the Washing of the feet and the Institution of the Eucharist. Today, the focus is on the Cross. The Passion Narrative from the Gospel of John is proclaimed and we have the opportunity to venerate the Cross. We see the sign of the Cross everywhere. Some of make it several times each day in our prayers. We see it in Churches, homes and shrines. For some, it is viewed as a work of art or of jewelry. Today, we are reminded it is a sign – a sign of Love, of Hope and of Life. What was seen by people of Jesus’ time as a sign of oppression, torture and death has taken on a new meaning by Jesus’ embracing the wood of the cross. Christ death on the cross reveals the love and mercy of God. It proclaims God’s desire for reconciliation and communion with us. Seen in light of the Resurrection, the Cross is a sign of Hope, victory and new Life. It is absolutely central to who we are as Church and what we are called to do every day. The Carthusians, an order of hermits founded by St. Bruno in the 11th century, have as their motto, “The Cross stands still, while the world is turning.” This does not refer to the earth’s rotation or revolutions around the sun. it speaks of that centrality of the mystery of the Cross in our daily lives with all its changes, chao and confusion. The Cross is still there at the center of our Church and our lives. The last words of Jesus on the Cross in John’s Gospel are, “It is finished.” All has been accomplished for our salvation and our reconciliation with God. Fr. John Behr, an Orthodox Theologian at nearby St. Vladimir’s Seminary in nearby Crestwood, uses the phrase, ‘perfected’ in one of his Good Friday homilies. (John Behr, The Cross Stands, While the World Turns – Homilies for the Cycles of the Year. Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir Seminary Press, 2014. P. 67). In a sense, all is perfected or at least the process of perfection has begun. That depends on us. How do we live with the Cross at the center? How do we follow Jesus who calls us to take up our cross to follow Him. The cross varies for each one of us. It may be something personal, with the family or hardships around us. In this time overshadowed with the pandemic, we live that mystery of the Cross in ways we never imagined. Being in isolation, the fear of testing positive, actually having the virus and dealing with death of loved ones in isolation. Yet, we are challenged to see the Cross as a sign of Hope, a promise of new life. On this day, let us pray for strength and hope as we look upon the Cross and know in our hearts that God is with us and will not abandon us. That is the ultimate message that comes from the Cross.

    During the Good Friday Liturgy, there are ten prayers offered for the Church, the World and several groups of people. This year the Church has added one more because of this pandemic. I share with you as a final prayer: Let us pray for a swift end to the coronavirus pandemic that afflicts our world, that our God and Father will heal the sick, strengthen those who care for them, and help us all to persevere in faith.

    Almighty and merciful God, source of all life, health and healing, look with compassion on our world, brought low by disease; protect us in the midst of the grave challenges that assail us and in your fatherly providence grant recovery to the stricken, strength to those who care for them and success to those working to eradicate this scourge. Through Christ our Lord. AMEN

  • Easter Sunday: The Resurrection Of The Lord

    Last night, the Church celebrated the Easter Vigil. It is a long liturgy with the blessing of the new Easter candle, a series of readings that trace the history of salvation up to the paschal mystery of the Lord’s Death and Resurrection, the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation and the first Eucharist of Easter. Because of its length and complexity, todays prayer and reflection focus on the Mass for Easter Sunday. Let us take a few moments to place ourselves in the presence of the Risen Christ and open our hearts to the gifts of peace and new life He offers us this day.

    LET US PRAY:

    O God, who on this day, through your Only Begotten Son, have conquered sin and death and unlocked for us the path to eternity, grant we pray, that we who keep the Solemnity of the Lord’s Resurrection may, through the renewal brought by your Spirit, rise up in the light of Life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God , for ever and ever. AMEN

    A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew (Matthew 28:1-10)

    After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow. The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men.

    Then the angel said to the women in reply, “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.” Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

    The Gospel of the Lord

    Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ.

    REFLECTION

    It has been said that about 366 times in the Scriptures are words and phrases that basically say to us not to be afraid. That’s one for every day of the week including leap year. That says something about human nature. We can live in fear in so many ways. In some parts of the world, people live in fear because of war and religious persecution such as we see in the Middle East and Nigeria or Yemen. Others live in fear in crime ridden cities across our country. Others live in psychological fear of rejection, of losing a job or a loved one. At present, we all are struggling fear as we try to live with this pandemic that is so prevalent in our world. On one level, that fear may remind us to wash our hands, practice social distancing and wear a mask at the supermarket. But it can also paralyze us. Today, the Church rejoices in the Resurrection of Christ. We proclaim that Christ has conquered sin and death by his Cross and Resurrection. He invites to know the gifts of Peace, Mercy, Hope and new Life. Our celebrations are limited this year. We may watch mass live streamed from our local parish or on the television from the cathedral or with Pope Francis (with minimal crew) at St. Peter’s. Our festive dinner with family and friends may be done on Zoom or some other media. But still we are called to celebrate as best we can in spite of fear. In today’s Gospel, we hear those words, “Do not be Afraid.’ Once from the angel and then from the Risen Lord himself.

    The mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection call us not to be afraid. We are called to be a people of Faith, Hope and Love. The Cross stands for victory and a hope that we need today as we live in the shadow of this pandemic. Perhaps those doctors, nurses and first responders who on the front lines of this pandemic show us not only about service and sacrifice; but also about hope, new life and victory. Do not be afraid!! Sounds easier said than done but it is possible and it is ours for the asking. Let us pray as we rejoice in the Risen Lord, we may know the gift of joy, of new life and that Hope that conquers all fear. CHRIST IS RISEN! INDEED HE IS RISEN!!!