The Paschal Triduum starting from Holy Thursday to the Easter Vigil on Black Saturday constitutes the most important days in Christendom. It commemorates the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the events which truly changed the world and the way we view everything. The Paschal Triduum is also termed as the Paschal Mystery which means that no words can ever fully elucidate it. It is like a well which no matter how much we take from it, there will always be something more. Yet I believe that it can always be summarized in the word: LOVE.
Photo (C) Charles Navarro Cabansay
Maundy Thursday: The Washing of the Feet and Mass of the Lord’s Supper
“No matter what God’s power may be, the first aspect of God is never that of the absolute Master, the Almighty. It is that of the God who puts himself on our human level and limits himself.” -Jacques Ellul
The one thing that distinguishes Christianity from other religions is that while other religions are all about man’s search for God, Christianity is all about the search of God for man. It’s not about finding God but rather God finding us. God who is love, always descends, extends and serves.
We always limit ourselves in order to facilitate a relationship. When we play with children, we do not do so in order to win or flaunt to them that are older and greater than them. We do so in order to bond with them. So here is God who became man in order to facilitate a relationship with us. Not just any kind of relationship but a relationship that loves until the end, love that is willing to accept and wash our feet, the dirtiest and lowest part of us, in order to invite us to an intimate relationship with Him. And it is in this very capacity to condescend where God’s almighty power is revealed. It is where the greatness and truth of His love is manifested. Indeed, the most powerful men on earth are those who can and willing to give everything.
However, it does not end there, this kind of relationship, service and condescending love is given to us as a ‘mandatum’, a mandate. It is not that difficult to love, but to love as Jesus loves, that’s the tricky part. “I give you a new commandment: Love one another. Such as my love has been for you so must your love be for each other. (John 13:34).” More than that it will be the sole sign that we belong to Him, that we are His disciples and that “[we] share in his heritage.” His last discourse in the 14th Chapter of the Gospel of John is all about this love. It serves as a prelude and explanation for all the actions that will show how His love is truly until and even beyond the end.
Good Friday: Veneration of the Cross and Mass of the Pre-sanctified
“Love can never be defined. It is love that defines us, it shows us who we are and what we are truly capable of.”
This Friday is good because it is the day that love has triumphed. It is the day when a man proved that love is possible in any circumstance even in the face of worst evil. Jesus proved that the love He commands is possible. Yes, it is difficult but not impossible. He showed that love can always be the choice and the answer. Love and not might is right. Love is the greatest magic and power. For it is love that reveals God’s presence even on the cross of death.
It is the day when it was proven that: “There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hope, its power to endure. Love never fails (1 Cor 13:7-8).” This day is the ultimate proof that wherever love is true, God is there.
On this day, God introduced who He really is. He revealed His very being and we have discovered that: “God is love. And he who remains in love, remains in God and God remains in him (1 John 4:16).”
On the cross, God faced and underwent all human dysfunction and corruption. He was abandoned, betrayed and denied by His friends. He became a victim of institutional corruption and injustice. He was stripped of every human dignity. He endured hungered and thirst. He was hurt and hated. He was not spared of all kinds of pain and suffering. And finally, He was killed. He only responded with love. And so we say, “Behold the wood of the cross on which hung the salvation of the world. Come let us adore.” On the wood of the cross is truly our salvation: LOVE, the only thing that can redeem the worst in us.
Black Saturday: Easter Vigil of the Lord’s Resurrection
“Those who are friends in Christ shall never see each other for the last time.”
If we analyze it, the root of all human corruption is the goal of self-preservation because of the insecurity of life and fear of death. This is the very reason why Jesus’ resurrection is the one event that changed the world. That’s why St Paul cannot overemphasize the importance of the resurrection for us when he said: “If our hopes in Christ are limited in this life only, we are the most pitiable of men (1 Cor 15:19). And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is void of content and your faith is empty too (1 Cor 15:14).” The resurrection invalidated sin and negated its consequence which is death. By the resurrection, the whole creation, especially humanity, was lifted from its fall, renewed and glorified. By the resurrection, we are children of God once again and coheirs with Christ. Jesus transformed our broken humanity to the fullness of our being created in the image and likeness of God. Because of His resurrection, we can be all who God has created us to be, despite our flaws, our past and limiting imperfections of this life.
Yes, there will be crosses but as the Son of God cannot be recognized without His cross, the cross will be the confirmation of our identity as the children of God. To find the cross is to find Christ. It is a cause for rejoicing since the cross would also be a sure sign of our resurrection. As St Paul says: “If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him (Rom 6:8).”
Christ proved that there is forever –that all our fears, anxieties, pain, and depression are useless because forever is true. The challenge of Easter is for us to walk in the newness of life, living in the ‘glorious freedom of the children of God’ –free to love, free to be the best, free to be happy whatever the circumstance is. The message of Easter is to live free from the shackles that death has put upon our humanity –grudge, misgiving, anxiety, insecurity, greed, and pain. We can now see death as only the birth into eternal life.
We are now free to love truly so that we can live our lives to the full. We can now live the joy that comes from true love without any worries for we know that there will always be a happy ending which in fact is not an end. As St John Paul II said, “We are the Easter People and Hallelujah is our song.” A true Christian cannot help but live in joy and continually praise God, “for his love endures forever (Ps 118).” Furthermore, because of Jesus’ resurrection, we know that “nothing can separate us from the love of God (Rom 8:39).”
“Peace be with you,” Christ is saying to all of us now. Living in peace is our way of life and nothing must rob us of this peace. Christ furthermore has given us a pledge of resurrection in the Eucharist where we become together by and with Him. In the Eucharist, His passion, death and resurrection is made present to lift us from our falls and continually redeem us. He lives forever making our redemption always reachable in this life. And so we must “rejoice in the Lord always. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard [our] hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:4,7).”