Friday, April 10, 2009

Goodbye Holy Thursday

It is now past midnight, and is canonically Good Friday, at least as far as fasting goes. I wish I had eaten dinner tonight, or more than I had.

Holy Thursday has become one of my favorite days of the liturgical year. After my return to the Faith, I was invited to participate in a Holy Thursday tradition I was not familiar with. To be honest, I probably didn't even know what the Holy Thursday liturgy contained at that point. The tradition was to visit 7 churches on Holy Thursday, while the Blessed Sacrament was at the altar of repose. It was a wonderful tradition, Church hopping. A couple friends and one professor went every year that we were in Chicago.

This year, being on my own, I observed this tradition alone. None of my friends or acquaintances wanted to join me on this journey; some didn't care to go to mass, and the others preferred to go to the Basilica mass. I went to a parish mass, which was good except for the women who got their feet washed. I then proceeded to 7 other Churches, prayed to Jesus all around the town. The last place I ended up was the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus.

I showed up at 11:00 PM, the starting time listed for Tenebrae. I have been to Tenebrae services before, at St. John Cantius in Chicago, and the Church then was far from full. There was only standing room in the Basilica, and precious little of that. I stood in the back. It was beautifully done, the singing was wonderful. My previous experience, however, had the entire congregation chanting, led by the religious in choir, separated by left and right side. I liked that, and would have liked involving the congregation more, in that sense. At the end of the service, it was a wonderful experience. The lights were put out, and all that I could see was the single lit candle, and silence was nearly complete. When they closed the door to the vestibule the place erupted in noise, and as soon as the light was visible again, that same silence.

Holy Thursday is the start of the Pascal Triduum. It technically does not end, there is no closing rite, the Eucharist is simply taken to the place of repose, and people leave when they do. Good Friday starts without a formal rite and ends in the same way. Saturday again starts with the blessing of the fire and the procession in, but there is a concrete end to the vigil mass. In a sense, I like to think of the whole Triduum as one service, with Holy Thursday essentially being the beginning of the Easter Vigil.

Happy Triduum to all!

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