Monday, March 28, 2005

MH - Reflections on the Triduum Just Past

Welcome back from your Easter break, everyone. Remember when schools actually called it that? At some point it transitioned to "Spring Vacation," and I guess now it's become "Spring Break," which we all know is just a polite term for unrestrained orgies. Oh well, that's progress.

We hope you all had a nice Easter. We had a rare burst of springtime here, with sun all weekend and temperatures in the 50s - perfect weather to remind us of the spring rebirth that is implicit in the story of the Resurrection.

We attended the Easter Vigil on Saturday night, marking the end to a typically dramatic, emotional Triduum at St. Agnes. It started on Holy Thursday with the Solumn Mass of the Lord's Supper, as I mentioned last Thursday night. For the final time before the Vigil, the organ is played and bells are rung during the Gloria, one of the most memorable moments of Holy Thursday. After Fr. Zuhlsdorf chanted "Gloria in excelsis Deo," the organ played for over a minute, a very sinister-sounding solo riff (I wish I knew what piece it came from), while the church bells peeled and the Sanctus bells were rung, clanging away unseen as if they were the bells preceeding the appearance of Marley in A Christmas Carol, before the schola chanted the remainder of the Gloria. It was a moment of indescribable drama. There was Fr. Zuhlsdorf's homily, the washing of the feet of six of the Altar Boys, the solumn procession with the Blessed Sacrament to the altar of repose, and the stripping of the altar. This merely set the stage for Good Friday.

What does one take away from Good Friday afternoon? The silent, solumn entrance; John's account of the Passion sung in Latin; the singing of the Improperia (Reproaches) during the Veneration of the Cross; and Allegri's Miserere sung during Communion, all as the sunshine of the late afternoon streamed in through the stained glass windows, and the dust particles danced in its beam as if they were remnants from so many Good Friday services through the years. Confessions were heard in the chapel downstairs, and there was something good about standing in the long lines in the silent room, watching the afternoon shadows lengthening, and being told by the priest that Christ died for us on this Good Friday afternoon so that our sins might be forgiven. Then, that evening, the final Stations of the Cross for Lent, and the opportunity to venerate relics of the True Cross.

I was struck by the Vigil Mass this year because we were still in March, still on Standard Time, and the church was totally dark when the small candles were lit at the beginning of the vigil, hundreds of pinpoints of light bobbing as if at sea, casting heat and light throughout the church. Fr. Zuhlsdorf sang the glorious Exsultet, the Litany of the Saints was chanted in Latin, the congregation renewed its baptismal vows (Fr. Altier reminded us to respond with conviction - "Let the Devil hear you!"), while the choir sang Josquin des Pres' Pange Lingua mass. The statues were unveiled, flowers adorned the altar and sanctuary.

Fr. Altier's homily was typically excellent, reminding us of the meaning of this night:
Therefore, Our Lord speaks to each one of us and says, You are the light of the world. He is the light of the world, and yet He tells each one of us that we are the light of the world. He also says, If the light is in you, then everything is bright; but if your light is darkness, how dark it is. On this night of the Resurrection, Our Lord has dispersed the darkness. He has broken through the chaos of death, and He has won for us the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. He has called each one of us then to choose life, to choose supernatural life, to reject sin and to live according to the grace of God given to us through the Holy Spirit, Who is the gift of the risen Christ. Each one of us baptized into Christ shares already in His Resurrection, and we are called to live in this world of darkness as the light of the world, to live holy lives, to live Christ-like lives, to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us, to inspire us, to fill us with His light and with His love. Even in this world, as all of the pressures surrounding us tell us that we are to give in, that we are to be like everyone else, that we are to sin, the Holy Spirit within us tells us that we are to rise above death and darkness, that we are to shine like a brilliant light, and that the life which is given to us through water and the Holy Spirit is to help us to reject death and to spring up to life everlasting.

And with that we arrive at the joy of Easter.

In a time when darkness seems to be increasing hourly, casting its shadow across our world, it is good for us to remember Who has the power to dispel the darkness, and how He expects us to share in spreading His light. The forces of darkness will keep trying to beat us down, to make us tired, to fill us with despair, to spread darkness within us. As Terri faces her death, as so many other things around us invite us to taste of that despair, let us call on the energies given us during the Triduum and let the love of Our Lord fill us, refresh us, prepare us once again to do battle in His name.

Many times we will win and sometimes we will lose, but we will always fight the good fight, run the good race, and know that Our Lord is there at the finish line, arms outstretched as they were on the Cross, waiting with His Divine Mercy, waiting for us.

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