Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Triduum: 'Stay awake with me'

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
-- BCP, page 220


Acts 10:34-43; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11;
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24; Mark 16:1-8

"Triduum," a Latin word that means three days, refers to the holiest days in the Christian family's memory. From the time of the Last Supper and First Eucharist through the Empty Tomb, the story of the Passion and Resurrection of our Lord is the central narrative that shapes our own story of faith.

[How do we get three days from Thursday night to Sunday? Liturgical calendars, following Jewish calendars, mark sundown rather than midnight as the beginning of a day. So, Thursday night is the beginning of Friday. Thus, the Eve of a feast, like Christmas Eve and Easter Eve, can be celebrated as part of the following day.]

The three days belong together. Consequently, we have a single word, Triduum, to refer to them as a unit. We rob ourselves of a great blessing if we simply skip to Easter Sunday. Yes, it is very difficult to keep them together and to observe them. I wonder if there are deeper reasons for our difficulty than the practical ones of attending worship for the long stretch of Thursday through Sunday.

The story of the three days shows us why. After supper and while Judas was gathering a rabble to arrest Jesus, Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane in the Mount of Olives to pray, taking Peter and James and John with him. He asked them, "stay awake with me."

Which they could not do. Twice he found them asleep. "Could you not stay awake with me an hour?" The question rings through the centuries and resonates in our ears.

In the face of deep suffering, it is hard to stay awake, to remain present.

Compassion, which often gets reduced to feelings of pity, is in fact a difficult deed that requires both an open heart and a resilient will. You must be there to be compassionate. Jesus was in dire need of compassion --people who stayed present with him in his anguish and, yes, fear. But his most trusted friends had a very hard time doing that. In fact, they failed miserably.

As do we. It is very difficult to be in the room with someone who is suffering, when all we can offer is the seemingly scant comfort of our presence. Compassion means to suffer with the sufferer. To allow the pain of someone else enter you and change you. Being there with one who suffers also most peculiarly puts us in touch with our own vulnerabilities, our own pain, our own suffering. And this is very hard to do.

The Three Days are an opportunity to train our souls in compassion. To attempt to stay awake with Jesus in the Triduum is to work on opening our hearts and strengthening our wills to sufferings -- in others as well as in ourselves. The great mystery is that the path of suffering leads to the empty tomb and the promise of resurrection, of new and transformed lives.

We are invited to keep the Triduum. May we stay awake.

Under the Mercy,

Fr. Daniel+

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