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Palm Sunday & Easter Triduum - 13th March, 2016
A feature of the liturgy on Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord is the commemoration of the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem which includes the procession of branches. This is not intended to be a re-enactment of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem.
The Church’s liturgy does not re-enact past events but is rather a living encounter with the whole mystery of Jesus’ incarnation, ministry, death and resurrection to glory. The proclamation of the story of Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, waving branches and processing together as a pilgrim people are ritual actions which help us call to mind a key event in our salvation history.
By participating in the Commemoration of the Lord’s Entrance into Jerusalem, we symbolise our commitment to complete the initial victory that Christ has won. We joyfully join ourselves to Christ, making his passion our own. We share in his suffering so that we may share in his glory.
The readings and prayers set down for Palm Sunday clearly proclaim that, just as there is no cross without the resurrection, there is no resurrection without the cross.
The term “Triduum” refers to the period of three days starting on Holy Thursday evening, continuing through Good Friday and Holy Saturday and ending with Mass or evening prayer on Easter Sunday evening.
Key liturgical celebrations of the Triduum are the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday and the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night.
Busy people may be tempted to attend just one of these, perhaps Good Friday because of the moving veneration of the cross, or the Easter Vigil because it’s the main celebration of the period, although it starts later than the normal Saturday evening Mass and lasts much longer!
But to miss any of the three liturgies of the Easter Triduum is like missing one act of a three-act play. The Triduum is really one three-day-long liturgy. This is illustrated clearly when we consider how the liturgies of this period begin and end.
The Mass on Holy Thursday evening begins in the usual way, but there is no blessing or dismissal at the end. Instead there is a procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the place of reservation. People depart in silence. The Good Friday liturgy begins with a silent procession, a period of silent prayer, and the opening prayer. It finishes with the prayer over the people. Again there is no final blessing or dismissal and people depart in silence.
At the Easter Vigil we gather around a fire in silent darkness for the blessing of the fire and the lighting of the paschal candle. The liturgy concludes with the joyful paschal dismissal “Go in peace, alleluia, alleluia” as we process out to the sounds of the triumphant Easter hymn.
The three-day liturgy, which began with the entrance and greeting on Holy Thursday evening, has moved us from suffering through death to resurrection. The whole Easter mystery is celebrated from a different point of view on each of the three days.