Category Archives: Triduum

Now we begin

resurrection-of-christ-with-angels-orthodox-christian-icon-11On Good Friday we hear Jesus say:

“It is finished.”
And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.

Today what was before us is gone and now we begin.

When I was growing up in the 60’s, I went to a more old fashioned church, a mission parish, very tiny, and traditional. The changes from Vatican II trickled in, but I have very vivid memories of Latin masses, incense, the works. Yet it was not a strict and scolding message, which many others may have heard. Yet, I was told that Jesus died for my sins. Mostly this made me feel weird; I would want to ask what I was supposed to do about that. I did feel badly, because I had appropriated that we are all bad at some level – but I was also assured of the love of Christ, so somehow it was more balanced

Now I recoil at the punitive message that some Christians, Catholics included, that Jesus died for my sins. Yesterday I even saw a bumper sticker with font that emphasized those words, “Jesus died for YOUR sins!” Yikes. No wonder people run away.

Yet – Jesus did indeed do just that.

9b84c9b0a13cb7bf720b7445be51d63eBeing a self-focused people we love to make things about ourselves. Imagining a Dana Carvey church lady moment, in my head I hear, “Hmmmm, you are just a bad person! Tsk, tsk! Jesus died for your sins, because you ______ .” Go ahead, fill in the blank. “Oh Jesus, I’m so bad, I lied, and I manipulated certain circumstances, and I cheated, and I…. ” We can all say that. But sometimes I think we get caught up in some obscure details, for example – lying. Let me say that I have told a big lie. I go to confession, I say that I lied, and then I do my penance. That was the “old days” anyway. Today, a good confessor will probe a little, stirring up the murky waters of my conscience, asking what that lying might be about. Now we are getting somewhere. Lent offers us that opportunity every year, to really dig deep, not for the purpose of guilt and self-flagellation, but Continue reading

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Holy Thursday – Men, Women, Friends A reflection by Bill Thornton

da_vinci_last_supper__2Holy Thursday is so rich in meaning. There is the foot-washing, the institution of the Eucharist, the ordination of the first priests, John’s long last discourse, … The Scripture from Holy Thursday is almost endless. Maybe that’s why I did not know where to start. Then I thought of da Vinci’s Last Supper. That picture contains 13 men and no women. This seems a little strange since it was painted to decorate a refectory for a community of nuns. Then it occurred to me that the stories of Holy Thursday do not mention a woman. Scripture scholars speculate that there must have been women there. Who cooked? Who served the meal? Where was Mary? Where were the other Holy women that appear in the stories of Good Friday? What would have been the scene if Jesus had offered to wash the feet of His mother or of Mary Magdalene? While there was conversation about Jesus death, and the men reacted as if they had gone a little overboard on the wine, what were the women saying, doing and thinking? Continue reading


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Vulgarem panem, sacri panis – ordinary bread, sacred bread

1147637_Plate_with_lace_border_25_cm_5110bd238b2abOh, those special, special dishes, the fine china. You know, the kind that only comes out on special occasions, right? If you happen to own some Royal Copenhagen china, you know about the special. You see, this Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica is the world’s most expensive china, with one place setting costing almost $7000! If I had that china, I would be afraid to touch it, let alone use it!

I had the privilege of meeting Greg Boyle in LA, October 2010.

I had the privilege of meeting Greg Boyle in LA, October 2010.

Recently I heard Gregory Boyle SJ, a Jesuit priest renown for his work with gang members in Los Angeles at Homeboy Industries; he was being interviewed by Krista Tippett for her radio program, On Being. (Here is a link to the page for that program and the podcast.) Fr. Greg was talking about some of his “homies,” as he calls them, having a meal together. Seven former gang rivals, sitting around a one kitchen, watching a turkey cook on Christmas (yes, I know – wrong holiday!), that they could share. And you can be assured that there was no Flora Danica in that household! Who knows, they might have eaten off of mismatched cheap dishes, or even paper plates. Yet, the meal they shared was very sacred.

the-last-supper-master-of-portilloThis absurd pairing of opposites such as $7000 Continue reading

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Triduum – The Easter Vigil Celebration

“Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised.”

We have these words from Luke and many others that remind us to proclaim with joy-

He is Risen!

(I took this photo in Jerusalem, at the Garden Tomb. This spot, outside the walls of the Old City is believed by some, to be the true tomb instead of the Holy Sepulchre. I just like the saying on the door of the tomb, which reminds us of what we believe.)

The Easter Vigil was a celebration of great joy! We gathered outside around the fire that I wrote about here. (these photos were clearly taken before we gathered – the pitchers to the right in one of them are old oils from last year.)

We processed in darkness into the church and suddenly one flame became many as we shared the Light of the Risen Christ with one another. This is our Easter joy!

Father Butler sang a beautiful Exultet, which if you have never heard, you should listen to. I don’t have access to any recording of Father’s voice, but you can here it on this website,it is a lovely version.

And our altar looked beautiful with all of its flowers, which you can see in this photo.

We had our many readings, which I was fortunate enough to be a part of and the liturgy was in its glory.

We welcomed three new members into our community; two women who were baptized and then a third, who along with the first two received the sacraments of confirmation and first Eucharist. It was beautiful and moving, as it always is.

If you have never been to Easter Vigil, you might really want to consider attending next year; I think it is unparalleled in our church life.

May you all the joys, blessings and new life of Easter be with you as we celebrate the essential notion of our faith this year and always.

Peace Unto All! Live in the Light of the Risen Christ!

Blessings of Easter 2008 to one and all!


Filed under Easter, Father Butler, Fran Rossi Szpylczyn, Triduum

Triduum – The Sacred Paschal Fire, The Exultet

Tonight we will gather outside of our church, the sacred fire will be burning brightly. The Paschal Candle will be lit and ultimately all light will emanate from that one source. Our Lord is risen, our new year, our new life begins. Candle by candle, flame by flame – our church will be illuminated with the Light of Christ, the Risen Lord.

The light will be followed by singing the Exultet, ancient words and music that ring out to proclaim the great rejoicing – Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!

The Exultet
Rejoice, heavenly powers! Sing, choirs of angels!
Exult, all creation around God’s throne!
Jesus Christ, our King, is risen!
Sound the trumpet of salvation!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!

Rejoice, O Mother Church! Exult in glory!
The risen Savior shines upon you!
Let this place resound with joy,
echoing the mighty song of all God’s people!

My dearest friends,
standing with me in this holy light,
join me in asking God for mercy,

that he may give his unworthy minister
grace to sing his Easter praises.

Deacon: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Deacon: Lift up your hearts.
People: We lift them up to the Lord.
Deacon: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
People: It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is truly right
that with full hearts and minds and voices
we should praise the unseen God, the all-powerful Father,
and his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

For Christ has ransomed us with his blood,
and paid for us the price of Adam’s sin to our eternal Father!

This is our passover feast,
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.

This is the night
when first you saved our fathers:
you freed the people of Israel from their slavery
and led them dry-shod through the sea.

This is the night
when the pillar of fire destroyed the darkness of sin!

This is the night
when Christians everywhere,
washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement,
are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

This is the night
when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death
and rose triumphant from the grave.

What good would life have been to us,
had Christ not come as our Redeemer?
Father, how wonderful your care for us!
How boundless your merciful love!
To ransom a slave you gave away your Son.

O happy fault,
O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a Redeemer!

Most blessed of all nights,
chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!

Of this night scripture says:
“The night will be as clear as day:
it will become my light, my joy.”

The power of this holy night dispels all evil,
washes guilt away, restores lost innocence,
brings mourners joy;
it casts out hatred, brings us peace,
and humbles earthly pride.

Night truly blessed when heaven is wedded to earth
and man is reconciled with God!

Therefore, heavenly Father,
in the joy of this night,
receive our evening sacrifice of praise,
your Church’s solemn offering.

Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.

(For it is fed by the melting wax,
which the mother bee brought forth
to make this precious candle.)

Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!

May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all mankind,
your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

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Triduum – Good Friday Leads Us Into The Tomb

Once again, we had a beautiful liturgy on Friday evening at St Edward’s. Upon entering, if you came in the main doors, Father Butler had once again assembled items that invited us more deeply into the experience, with all of our senses.

On the table we found symbols of the cross, of crucifixion. As Father said in his homily, there are many representations of the Cross, all slightly different. He spoke beautifully of two images of a crucified Christ, with a smile (a jarring image, isn’t it, but necessary) but I was not able to find pictures of them to share here. In fact this slightly twisted smile of Christ crucified wove beautifully with his homily story, which I will attempt to write about at another time.

Also, I was so happy to encounter a new friend from another parish, who came to attend our service. It was good to be in community with her and her other friend on this day. I look around and know so many people here in our large parish and I can’t believe that last year at this time I knew only one person at St. Edward’s… Father Lanese.

The service began. It always strikes me when the priest and deacons enter in silence and prostrate themselves before the altar. It is the ultimate antithetical symbol, right there with the cross. In our world, as in the culture of Jesus’ time and frankly of all time, power, prestige and position seem to mean everything to the world. To prostrate oneself on the ground before God and congregation is a symbol of real humility.

Do I think that every priest or deacon feels this sublime sense of humility every Good Friday? Maybe they do and maybe they don’t; I would think that one has many feelings in that position.

Why wouldn’t they struggle with their humility any less than the rest of us? After all, no matter the designation or ordination, we are all human. Yet, we must all empty ourselves and bow down before God. This is life’s work.

The readings were so well done and the choir was outstanding. I am always moved by how the RCIA candidates carry the cross in when that time comes. It made me cry a little and I was aware of the tears of others. Behold, behold – the wood of the Cross – the songs of the hymn are still in my head along with the reverent and slow process of carrying this cross.

Our service progressed and we got to the point of venerating the Cross. And suddenly something happened to to me… I felt strange and unsettled. My usual feeling of some kind of connection to God seemed to suddenly snap and go dark. I have re-written this sentence about 22 times now and no matter how I say it, I feel like it sounds so silly and self-indulgent. I don’t know how else to say it, so if that is how it sounds, so be it.

Has this ever happened to you? It has happened to me, but not so profoundly, or at least not so profoundly and sharply. God may appear faint and distant at times, but this felt distinctly different. And not good. In a rare moment, I decided that I might detachedly observe what this was and just go with it.

The feeling, or rather non-feeling was disturbing. It felt kind of like someone left in the middle of a conversation and I was left there alone in the dark. I left church feeling confused and irritable.

Perhaps I was in the Tomb? I don’t know. Again, I just tried to go with it.

At 11pm, I returned to church for Evening Prayer. At about 10:55 actually, I entered the semi-dark sanctuary, with our Cross at the foot of the altar, draped in red. There were 5 other people there, including Father Butler.

These two nights of Compline or Evening prayer have reminded me of how much I long for this kind of community prayer. If you have never attended, I would simply say that it is worth your time next time the opportunity presents itself.

Somehow, even in my tomb, a small chink of light came in, almost imperceptible. Some tears began to flow and while I still felt distant, I did not feel lost.

Which leads me to the long winded point of this piece… How do we enter the tomb and stay there? As if the Cross were not hard enough, the tomb is potentially worse. Kill me and get it over with leads to this place of… Well this place of nothing.

We as Catholics, as Christians live in the hope that we know what will come next. We know how the story ends. Yet we must relive this story all the time as our lives constantly leads us to crucifixions and subsequent resurrections. Over and over and over again.

Then this morning I read this piece by Rose Marie Berger, someone that I have had the opportunity to hear speak. What she remembers of her childhood Good Friday to Easter experiences is worth your time I think.

May this time in the tomb teach us, as Berger tells us in her writing…

Mother Teresa wrote, “the agony of desolation is so great” and “[God] is destroying everything in me.” Until finally, after 16 years, something changed.

Mother Teresa took on a discipline of “smiling at God” in the emptiness. Later, she was able to write, “I have come to love the darkness.”

Today, I pray to smile at God and learn to love the darkness. Check back with me- I have the feeling it will be even harder than I think.

And I think it will be pretty hard.


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Triduum Begins-Holy Thursday

On Thursday night many of our community gathered to celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. It was a beautiful celebration and it reflects that joy and sorrow are intertwined like the strands that make up a piece of thread.

Before our sadness we do celebrate and this meal represents the bounty of the Lord, the goodness and the nourishment of the Lord. We remember that we must bring gifts to God and those simple gifts of bread and wine are transformed, out of His suffering, into our Sacred Banquet.

This is also the mass where feet are washed, as Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The washing of feet is a rather intimate act. I got to find this out as I had my own feet washed by another. It was challenging and uncomfortable; faith is like that in my experience. I must be called to come up against what makes me feel ill at ease.

What was harder… Not being sure of when to get up to go to the seat the Father Butler had pointed out to me earlier. Getting up and feeling awkward as I made my way to that chair. Sitting facing backwards. I couldn’t look up and allow myself to make eye contact with anyone, which is very strange for me.

Or was it when Deacon Gene Kelenski bent down before me and I removed my sock reluctantly. As I held back I knew that I had to stop thinking about Gene and to start thinking about Christ. That I can tell you is easier said than done. Gene had to move my foot over the bowl; it did not want to go there of its own volition, which is of course my volition.

Then the warm water cascades over what I think to be my very ugly foot. I am reminding myself that such self-criticism is redolent with narcissiscm, but that is another story for another day. What I should remind myself is to get out of my own way.

After the water, the gentle touch of my feet being dried off, which really makes me want to leap up and run away. No, I just continue to sit there feeling uncomfortable and maybe even a little angry. And wishing I felt otherwise.

Oh no! Not the other foot too! Yes. The other foot. Lather, rinse, repeat as the saying goes. Deep sigh. What was I thinking when I volunteered to do this?

Enough of my self-indulgent ramblings. I only say all this because I think there is something for all of us to work out in community about serving and being served.

I will say this- doing the serving is the easy part in many ways. Until I peel the onion a bit to find my pride. The being served is the perfect albeit uncomfortable counterbalance to the whole thing.

This leads me to think that I must pray with the image of Jesus washing my feet more often and me finding something to hold onto there, rather than to shirk away from. So much for metanoia, I think.

We are all Peters in some way are we not. Here are some words by Jean Vanier from something called “Not Optional” on this topic.

We have difficulty recognizing this kingdom of God because it is so small and hidden, like treasure hidden in a field. We human beings are so attracted by power and glory that frequently we do not see it, or want to see it. In order to show the radical newness of life in his kingdom, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. This shocks and scandalizes them…. But it’s as if Jesus is trying to say: ‘Yes, this is the way to love in my kingdom.’ That is why to have one’s feet washed by Jesus is not something optional, but a vital, necessary part of discipleship. It means entering into a whole new world. -Jean Vanier, The Scandal of Service: Jesus Washes Our Feet

The service ends some time later, we stream out and head to the chapel, to the Repository. Can we keep watch with the Lord? I am reminded of my own visit to the real Gethsemane and the power of that place; I am further reminded of the many Gethsemanes that pop up and that are easily and frequently slumbered through.

I became enveloped in the dark silence of the chapel and the container it provided for my prayer. My prayer finally gave way- the first time in a very long time to some kind of deeper surrender. Silence, when I allow it to do so, is a form of ecstasy for me and I do use that word rather purposefully even if it is uncomfortably.

Then – Compline or Night Prayer. Someone lead the prayer and she sang so richly, so beautifully… Pane Lingua, the words in Latin so comforting to me. I am reminded of the long tradition of our church and how that with all its woes, there are so many gifts.

May this Triduum bring us all closer to God by being brought closer to one another. Let us pray for the world at large and for our community here, including and especially our newest members.

At the Easter Vigil, they will be fully entered into our community and to the Catholic Church. Please keep them in your prayers and welcome them with an open and loving heart.


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