The Triduum Ten, 20141
April 21, 2014 by lucieromarin
The Easter Triduum is done! Here are some things to love about it:
1. Young men amassing
It’s like seeing all the intermittent characters of your favourite television series suddenly appearing in the season’s penultimate episode, in preparation for the season final. It begins before the Triduum, on Palm Sunday, when the liturgy suddenly triples in length and solemnity. So, before Mass, instead of seeing the odd character in an alb ducking out of the church for a glass of water, you see a year’s supply of them outside the walls – a good forty minutes before the ceremony begins – all ready (more or less), all preparing, all suffused with an energy like a blend of military action and dance.
2. A cacophony of bells
During the Gloria of Maundy Thursday, the bells are rung for the last time, not to be heard again until the Holy Saturday Vigil. And I do not mean that they’re rung in a timid, one-note-only fashion. Oh, no! Every bell or gong on the premises that hasn’t already been stolen by the servers is secured by the choristers, who make…a big noise!
3. The clappers
The clappers replace the suppressed bells at the Consecration on Maundy Thursday, and before Holy Communion on Good Friday. It’s a chill-down-your-spine kind of sound – it makes you think of the death-rattle, of shaking bones, of the trees beating their branches together in rebellion and grief at the fall of Adam.
4. The tearing sound of the stripping of the altars
While I must admit that this sound betrays the presence of adhesive tape on the altar cloths, it’s still the perfect sound for this action, bringing to mind Our Lord’s own pain, as the garments glued to His bloodied skin and wounds were torn from Him.
5. The Good Friday prostration
Because prostrations are the best thing in the world.
6. The Paschal Candle in the dark sanctuary
And the cloud of incense, lit only by that single, dominating flame.
7. Special effects that go right
Every trad community (and, undoubtedly, every liturgically-serious New Mass community, too) has its own collection of local customs which it loves as much as its liturgical inheritance…and it has to be admitted that very often these customs are the very thing that draw people to the ceremonies. Triduum customs may include, but are not limited to, a twenty-minute drone, three-person manipulation of concealed wires, thunder, cascading flowers columns of suspended flowerpots, and synchronised light-switching. Done properly, they never steal the glory from the liturgy itself, and the artistry behind them goes completely unnoticed, but they add both drama and meaning to the liturgical experience (and help people get through three hours of it at a time!)
Alas! This year, I put a dent in the Exultet by turning on the lights at the wrong time. Wah. Even so, it made me realise that the stumbles, missed refrains, flat notes, and wandering servers are all just as much a part of our attempt to worship God and give our brothers and sisters a beautiful Easter as are our successes. So I list them as something to love. If nothing else, we can learn from them – I guarantee you that if I’m on light-detail next year, I’ll switch it on in at the right moment!
9. Young men being enthusiastic about things
Because overhearing twenty-year-olds saying, “Aw, man, that was awesome scissor-action” makes me happy.
It’s like the Oscars, except liturgical, modest, and discreet. (So, maybe not really like the Oscars???) With four ceremonies across four days, each with its own particular spirit, character and liturgical flavour, those women who enjoy dress as an art-form as relevant to the richness and beauty of life as music have plenty to take seriously. Here, beautiful dress is to be understood almost as a form of prayer, because it expresses the wearer’s attitude to the ceremony she attends. It also expresses her attitude to the people who see her, and to their experience of the ceremony as a result of seeing her. (I’m not joking here. You rock up to the pew on Good Friday in a giant hat adorned with bright red feathers and plastic fruit and you’re going to make it a lot harder for the person stuck behind your plastic fruit to think about salvation. This is an extreme example, but you take my point.)
Of course, this does apply to the men too, but there’s a limit to how interested I can be in suits and ties, especially since I can’t appropriate any of the men’s ideas for myself!
Well, maybe it’s just me, but I love watching the outfits!
That’s the Triduum Ten. But, of course, there’s one thing more:
You have to love a schola that sings this:
Testify, sister! Especially concur with 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and most, most especially with 8. Because (what I’ve privately come to think of as) a certain amount of Catholic shambles doesn’t matter a jot when everything that is said and done is true and good, the earthly expression of the heavenly form. It doesn’t signify that humans muff their cues or sing off-key. I am so swingeingly grateful for being Catholic.
Though, I see your Triduum 10 and raise you one Praeconium Paschale, the uttermost peak. The nonesuch. The zenith. (Insert adjectives for the extraordinary here.)