Lessons from a Lent retreat: Entering into the Triduum
Apr 9, 2019
This past weekend, I attended a Lent retreat held by 270 Catholic and Silver Spring Catholic, two groups which provide opportunities for young adults that live in Montgomery County to grow in their faith. The theme of the retreat was the Triduum, and the speakers provided great insights into the meaning behind those three days that lead up to Easter.
With what I learned from the retreat, I am hoping to integrate the liturgy of each day of the Triduum into my daily life. Here are a few examples of those theological and practical takeaways and how I hope to put them into practice.
Father Jack Berard, the parochial vicar of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Derwood, walked the retreat participants through the three things we remember on Holy Thursday, all of which are ways Jesus humbled Himself and modeled for us how He wanted us to continue His ministry after He was gone.
As He washed His disciples' feet, a practice that was then unthinkable for the host of a dinner party and more suited to a servant, Jesus told His disciples, “I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13:15)
After washing the disciples' feet, Jesus institutes the Eucharist, asking His disciples to “do this in memory of me,” which also serves as the institution of the priesthood. In becoming present to us in the form of bread and wine, Jesus is once again humbling Himself to connect with us in an intimate way, and He is asking imperfect humans to be the ones to facilitate this Sacrament.
We celebrate the Eucharist every day, and many parishes still perform foot washing ceremonies during Holy Thursday Mass. Many dioceses hold their Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, where priests gather for a Mass in which the oils used in Sacraments throughout the year are blessed. In the Archdiocese of Washington, that is held the day after Palm Sunday.
Going to Mass is a great way to enter into these realities of our faith that we celebrate in a special way on Holy Thursday. But after reflecting on the theme of humility that underlies Jesus's actions on that day, I also want to do something to humble myself and serve others on Holy Thursday, such as volunteering at a local social services agency like Catholic Charities or Shepherd's Table in Silver Spring.
Good Friday is a day of mourning marked by fasting, and it is the only day of the year that we do not celebrate Mass. During liturgies held on this day, the priests process in and out of the church in silence, which Father Martino Choi, the parochial vicar of St. Patrick's Parish in Rockville, noted is a way to give God space to speak to us in our often hectic lives.
The Good Friday liturgy also involves the solemn intercessions, in which the congregation kneels and prays ten different petitions. As Father Choi pointed out, as the Church remembers the death of Jesus on the cross, which is the “ perfect example of selflessness," we take that time to pray for others.
Finally, Good Friday liturgies involve the veneration of the cross, where the congregation processes forward to genuflect, touch, kiss, or otherwise recognize a cross. As Father Choi said, “He carried the cross to show us how to carry our crosses.”
In order to bring that liturgy into the rest of the day on Good Friday, I am going to try to go through the day in as much silence as I can - no podcasts or music while driving and no Netflix at night. In addition to fasting from food, I am going to fast from entertainment and noise to make time to both pray for others and hopefully listen to God's voice.
Most of the discussion at the retreat about Holy Saturday centered around the Easter Vigil, which is a beautiful liturgy that occurs after sundown, because it was during the nighttime that Jesus rose and overcame death. The liturgy includes readings and prayers that recount salvation history, all the way back to the book of Genesis. But even if we are not attending the Easter Vigil, there are ways to incorporate that liturgy into our lives.
One idea that my retreat small group discussed was doing a Novena of the Easter Vigil readings leading up to Holy Saturday, by reading one each day and praying with it. Or, instead of spreading them out, we could also make time to sit down and read them all on Holy Saturday in preparation for Easter.
Having the opportunity to step away from my daily life and gather in community with other young adults helped me recenter and plan how I hope to grow spiritually at the end of Lent. Even though each of my Lenten goals haven't gone as well as I had hoped, I can still prepare for the joy of Easter by being intentional about how I celebrate the Triduum.