My son’s first t-ball game of the season is scheduled for Thursday night. He will not be there.
I do not expect the rest of the world to grind to a halt during Holy Week, but, for me and my family, the whole year revolves around these next few days. In our modern world, life moves too fast to set aside three days for anything, especially seventy-two hours of church. I recognize that fact. I am a minister in the twenty-first century, and I have children of my own. Trust me: I know what it means for church to come near the bottom of a long list of important, worthwhile pursuits. But, for more than a decade, I have walked the through the liturgies of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Day each year, and I am convinced that there is no spiritual journey as powerful or transformative as this annual pilgrimage. How can I convey the incomparable value of this three-day holy endeavor to a busy, overcommitted, post-ecclesial world?
Last week I read a blog post by the Rev. Scott Gunn, Executive Director of Forward Movement, which publishes the popular devotional Forward Day-by-Day. In that post, Gunn reissued a promise that he made every year he was a parish priest: “Come to the entire Triduum Sacrum. I promise you, these liturgies—the very heart of our faith—will change your life.” That “Triduum Sacrum” is literally the “Sacred Three Days,” which begin this Thursday evening with the washing of the feet and the stripping of the altar and continue through the Easter evening service on Sunday. I agree with Scott Gunn at the deepest level of my soul, and I offer his promise to you as my own: if you come to the entire Paschal Triduum, I promise that you will experience a holy transformation.
The adventure that we take during these three days includes the most emotional, most suspenseful, most painful, and most glorious moments of our faith: the washing of the disciples’ feet, the institution of Holy Communion, the agony in the garden, Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, Jesus’ arrest and torture, the horror of the cross, the coldness of the tomb, the first light of new life, and the realization of the good news. Although you can experience one or two of these in isolation, nothing can compare with a full immersion in this sacred journey. Each step in the sequence builds upon the last and prepares us for the next. Together, they have the power to change us, to shape us, and to mold us into the children of God our hearts dream of becoming. I beg you not to skip even a moment of it.
Come on Maundy Thursday. Suffer with Christ on Good Friday. Sit motionless at the tomb on Saturday morning. Keep watch with the faithful on Saturday night. Welcome the light of Easter Day. And return to the table on Sunday night. Come and be transformed.