Friday, March 26, 2010

Anticipation: How Do We Get Ready for Easter Triduum?

The week before Holy Week - time to take stock of how Lent has gone - and for musicians and liturgists to rehearse and finalize plans for Triduum. For RCIA teams, the final gatherings are filled with a sense of excitement. In short, everyone active in liturgy, music or catechumenal ministry in a parish is in some form of preparation mode. Last night in my parish, we rehearsed for 2 1/2 hours for Holy Thursday. Next Monday, we will practice for the Vigil.

Are the people in the pews, the ones who are not active in a particular ministry preparing for liturgy too? Ideally, yes. In reality, for most, probably not so much.

Families for whom Easter is a special day have probably planned the Easter wardrobe of new clothes for their family members - a time-honored tradition that most have forgotten the original meaning of (the wearing of new clothes echoes the new white garment of their baptism). They have also probably made arrangements for a family get-together and a special meal. The hams in the grocery stores are a testimony to the popularity of that particular Easter tradition. But are they readying for the powerful liturgical celebrations of the Triduum as well?

How many of the Assemby are excitedly anticipating the procession with the palms on Palm Sunday? Do you think they are looking forward to the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday? How many are in a state of breathless anticipation of the opening of the Easter Vigil, with the fire, in the dark and the  proclamation of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Exsultet?  Are people who do not have family members to be baptized at the Vigil even thinking about the moment when new Christians will be made among them? The question is how have we helped them?  

In our parish, we have been reflecting all through Lent on the meaning of our baptism, hoping that the renewal of baptismal vows will take on new meaning.  It is one small way to instill a sense of anticipation. Many parishes will insert some kind of invitation to the liturgies of the Triduum in their bulletins this weekend - yet we all know that attendance at Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Vigil normally only represent mostly those who are active in the parish.

If everyone who goes to weekend Mass were to decide to show up for any of these liturgies, we could not seat them! Yet, all are invited.  Is this a case of "many are called, few are chosen"?  Should we be content with this status quo? Or do we need to work harder to provide opportunities for the kind of conversion that would move people to be where the Lord is present in our great celebrations?

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