Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Second Triduum

In all the liturgical extravagance of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, it's easy to miss the second Easter Triduum that shadows the more apparent one, and that in important ways draws us closer to the heart of these days.

After the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper, our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is moved to a side altar of repose for the rest of the night. There is a venerable tradition of visiting our Lord in seven churches--more of a challenge in our land and era of individuatedness and distance. No matter how many churches one has a chance to visit, this is a time to quietly pray to him in silence.

After the Good Friday Liturgy of the Passion, the Blessed Sacrament has been entirely consumed, the altars are stripped, the tabernacle evacuated, and the vigil light extinguished. The church is vacant of the Holy Presence that makes silence appropriate in a Catholic church in a way that is not possible for other denominations's churches. There is a new vacancy inhabiting the space. Without a nucleus, the silence takes on a new tenor: it is a time of silence from silence.

This unique silence continues through Holy Saturday into the night, up until the Easter Vigil/Mass of the Resurrection. We stand in a no-man's land. A desert. Our Lord is absent.

Liturgically speaking at least.1 Historically we live after his resurrection, so in actuality he will always remain with us, as he promised. Like Virgil for Dante, visible aids can only take us so far.

But without the helps of the liturgy—most properly an orchestrated silence2—, we are invited this one time of the year to enter more deeply into the Reality to which it points, through the silence underneath.

He is there in the still, small voice that even the silence of creation swamps out and that not even the "eternal silence of these infinite spaces" can block out. Silence is the most delicate sound: any other sound destroys it. It is also the most sensitive. It takes silence within us to hear the silence Beyond. But, o paradox, the silence, the openness within, has to be maintained by activity,3 by the fortifications against Noise we've been building these forty days. The liturgy has pointed us in the right direction and readied us to receive.

Beneath the liturgical spectacles of these days, there is another triduum. If you are very still, you might just catch a glimpse out of the corner of your eye, the whisper beneath the fading echoes of the last Amen.



1. Yet he is made truly present to us liturgically, just as the Passover account in Exodus and the Passover questions now make present "this night" to all Jews who join in the celebration.

2. As here: Silence and Light

3. Activity that reaches a higher state, an inner activity synonymous with actuality.

Of possible interest: