The Days Before Easter, Triduum

thThree days.  We have three days or is it rather a week or is it a month or even maybe years….
Three feelings melded into one with always a happy ending at the end.  Three feelings that hit both ends of the spectrum of feelings and the Church condenses them for us into three days.

The Church’s condensation of feelings ends with a happy ending, much like most of the movies we watch again and again because of that happy ending that ends, happily.  That’s what we imagine our lives to be.  Those are the stories told to us by our parents to help us sleep at night, those are the illusions that even 80 year old can hold on to.

“It’ll work out,” says the mom to you as she turns off your light.  “It’ll be alright,” is the anthem we hum each day to see us through each day.

“It’ll work out” and “It’ll be alright” should be placed on our coins and dollar bills because we believe in it so strongly.

Three days is what we honor once a year -there’s a union to these days, in other words if you come to one and not another you miss the flow, the continuity, the seamlessness that combines these three days.  When I was in parishes, it was always Good Friday that drew the largest crowd.  You can figure it out for yourselves why that was the case, I have my own opinion.  Saturday Night Vigil?  “Oh, that’s the long, boring service, I’m skipping it.”

How many of us want to jump to redemption without the redeeming part?  How many of us want the promise of eternal life instead of living the living part?  How many of us want the glory without the price paid for it?

Three days.  You cannot have the last day without experiencing the first day with the second one in the middle.  There is no jumping to the last day without knowing and appreciating the power and significance of day one and day two.  You cannot experience Easter without the cross.  You have no idea of joy until pain has settled in your heart.  There is no peace without discord.

How can there be those feelings without the feelings that bring those feelings to you?  We’re comfortable in our comfortable homes and Jesus wants to rock our smooth sailing boats a bit.  This new pope is trying to do the same thing unlike his last two predecessors.

Three days.  Today is celebration and fellowship in the midst of something pending.  Unknown but somehow known.

“It’s cancer.”  “Oh, no it can’t be.  We need to wait for all the tests to get back to us.”  “You have six months to live.”  “Forget the doctor darling, you know you can beat this.”  “Your granddaughter flunked her SAT’s.”  “That school wasn’t meant for her anyway, she can go to any college she chooses.”    Tonight is the celebration of fellowship and waiting for the unknown, the pending.

Tomorrow, on Friday, we know all too well.  Tomorrow is the giving up and giving in of everything and anything human.  Tomorrow is the destruction of humanity in order to rebuilt it again and again and again and again.  We know Friday all too well, perhaps that is why the crowds are larger that day.

Saturday night and Sunday is the unreal made real.  The preposterous is held out before us to shock us into the humanity God wanted for us all along, from the very beginning.  Perhaps the longer we live the less shocking it becomes for us because we know that Easter is coming, we know the ending of the fairy tale we call the Christian faith.

The celebration of Thursday is enjoyed by everyone who attended and we missed those who weren’t able to be there.  The crushing news of the Friday service makes everyone numb with doubt and pain.  Then Saturday evening arrives and we are amazed by a different and new kind of hope.  It was not the hope of the family’s wishes or the doctor’s or of yours.  It was the hope of God for which we have little understanding.

The person you dearly loved died of cancer.  The doctors were right, he lasted five months and they gave him six.  She didn’t get into the college she wanted but is at a tech school to get her grades up to speed.

The stories are endless.  Take your pick.  But the hope of these three days is the same hope we all share and believe in even when we don’t say it or admit it.

Three days.  Don’t miss one of them or you’ll miss them all.  Don’t miss any of them or you’ll miss the necessary pain and heartache and you will also miss out on the sublime and divine hope that we neither understand or know about but dutifully honor this and every year.

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on
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