Three Days, Three Words: He is Risen!”

By Dr. Glenn Ambrose, Professor of Religious Studies

Three days in the life of Christ have shaped Christian worship more than any other. The time frame beginning with the Last Supper and ending with the discovery of the empty tomb have given rise to rich liturgical traditions.  In the 20th century, the nomenclature of the “Paschal Triduum” came to be widely used to designate the liturgies of these three feast days that celebrate the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  But the traditions associated with Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil have ancient roots.

her-1In the fourth century, the Church began to systematically mark the events of Jesus’ last week of pre-resurrected life.   This established a Holy Week beginning with Palm Sunday and its celebration of Jesus’ fateful entry into Jerusalem.  The Church of Jerusalem played a key role in the development of these traditions.  No doubt the grounds where Jesus walked and where he suffered and died provoked Christians there to commemorate the events of these three days in special manner.

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Dr. Glenn Ambrose shares his reflection on three of the most important days in Christianity.

Holy Thursday recalls the last night that Jesus ate with his disciples.  While this liturgy marks the first Eucharist and ends with Eucharistic adoration, it is more recently known for the tradition of foot washing. Foot washing is a unique aspect of the account of the Last Supper in the Gospel of John, but this was only inserted in the Mass for Holy Thursday in 1955 by Pope Pius XII.  Pope Francis notably raised its profile when he washed the feet of two women and Muslims early in his papacy.

In the fourth century, the church in Jerusalem memorialized the death of Jesus with a whole day of prayer and a procession from the place Jesus was flagellated to Golgotha where he was crucified. Along the way at different stations passion narratives, prayers and psalms were read.   Today in San Antonio, an internationally renowned passion play is staged in the heart of the city. Known for its realism it provides an opportunity to solemnly walk with Jesus, accompanying him through his sufferings as he journeys with us in ours.

The Triduum comes to a close with what St. Augustine called the “mother of all vigils” – the Paschal Vigil.  Marking the end of Lent and the beginning of a new Easter season, the community of faithful with its newly baptized members recommits itself to follow the way of Christ. Although not commonly practiced today, this lengthy liturgy that recounts not just the day of the Resurrection of the Lord, but also the entirety of salvation history, is ideally started late enough in the evening so as to end at the dawn of a new day. But whether this service ends at 10:00PM or 4:00AM, we are all both challenged and invited by the empty tomb to become the eyes, hears and hands of God’s incarnated love.

Praised be the Incarnate Word.

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Lent Invites Us to Join Jesus in the Desert

By Dr. Gilberto Hinojosa, professor emeritus

Lent invites us to join Jesus in the desert.

But what about that good old Catholic school refrain: “What should I give up for Lent?”?  Is it on its way out?

In some way, that would be good because it was simplistic.  After all, giving up ice cream, sodas, or Girl Scout Cookies does not automatically make us better persons.  In fact, few of those Lenten denials turned into permanent good habits.  And to be honest, no one really suffered from those “sacrifices.”

But wait!  Giving up something was a good reminder that Lent is a special season.

Dr. Gilberto Hinojosa reflects on the sacrifice of Lent and “walking in the desert.”

We need reminders that we need spend time in the “desert.”  Lent is supposed to pull us away from our daily routines and draw us into the mysteries of the life of God in us and among us.

Being in the desert involves solitude, being alone, away from distractions.

In today’s terms, it might mean shutting down the cell phone, the tablet, or the laptop, getting away from constantly being in touch with others, and getting ourselves away from the world of entertainment.

I sometimes check my phone in the car on my way to work or home, sometimes while running an errand, or while waiting for the traffic light to change.  Now, technically I am not driving, but it’s still pretty silly that I need to be aware, at all times, of any emails or earth-shaking newsbreaks.  This is reflective of the habit of cluttering up my life.

I have, however, developed a habit of some quiet, “desert” moments during the day.  But they are brief and, to be honest, they are only a couple – as in two.

Will giving up my favorite something – having a delicious fish dinner on Lenten Fridays is no sacrifice! – change my life?  It should at least push me into a few more minutes of being alone with myself and with my God.