Saturday, April 07, 2007

Sacred Triduum

The Sacred Triduum are the three days that lead up to Easter, and commemorates the institution of the Eucharist and Priesthood, and the Passion of Christ from the Agony in the Garden, to His betrayal, crucifixion, death, and entombment.

On Maundy (or Holy) Thursday, Archbishop Burke celebrated the Chrism Mass, where he consecrated the Holy Oils and the priests of the Archdiocese renewed their vows. According to an old missal: "At pontifical Mass the oils are blessed for Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, Extreme Unction and the consecration of altars and churches."

Roman Catholic Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - Archbishop Burke consecrates holy oils at Chrism Mass, on Holy Thursday, 2007
Archbishop Burke consecrates the Holy Oils. "Chrism" is oil for anointing; from the same Greek word we get Jesus Christ, or Jesus the Anointed One.

Priests of the Archdiocese of Saint Louis, leave the Cathedral Basilica and process past seminarians, after the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday. (Warning: YouTube may have objectionable content.)

In the evening is the final Mass until the eve of Sunday. According to the old missal: "On this day an extra Ciborium is consecrated for the Mass of the Presanctified (hence the name) on Good Friday. After Mass this Ciborium is born in solemn procession, during which the Pange Lingua is sung, to the altar of repose" (rite as revised in 1955). The altar is stripped bare and the offering of Mass is forbidden.

The procession to the altar of repose at Saint Francis de Sales Oratory.

Good Friday marks the betrayal of Jesus by his own apostle Judas. All of the men scattered after His arrest, and even Saint Peter shamefully denied that he even knew Christ. Only His female disciples, including His mother Mary, and one teenage boy, John, stayed with Him during his arrest and execution. The details of His execution are commemorated by the Way of the Cross devotion.

Our Lady of Victories Roman Catholic Chapel, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - nave
The faithful are waiting here in Our Lady of Victories Chapel, for the start of the third annual Communion and Liberation Way of the Cross devotion, which led from here, across the Gateway Arch grounds, and ended in front of the Old Cathedral. It was an unexpectedly bitter cold day, which for me at least, intensified the penitential character of this devotion.

Saint John Nepomuk Roman Catholic Chapel, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA - altar
The altar at Saint John Nepomuk Chapel is here shown stripped bare for Good Friday.

Holy Saturday continues the somber tone of the Triduum, commemorating Christ in the sepulcher.

The Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem celebrated the Office of Tenebrae each day of the Triduum, starting at 4:00 a.m., and ending just before dawn. I attended the Saturday Office, celebrated by the Canons in Latin, which consisted of Psalms and lessons emphasizing the sorrow and entombment of Christ. The chapel at first was well-lit with many candles, including a large candelabra in the center of sanctuary: at the end of each Psalm, a Frater would extinguish a candle on the candelabra; but towards the end of the Office they also extinguished all of the rest of the candles, including those that were giving us light for reading.

At the end of the Benedictus, in holy silence as we fell on our knees, the final candle, symbolizing Christ, was snuffed out.

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