By Deacon Keith Fournier
These last Forty Days were a time of preparation for these great Three days, which is what Triduum means. These three days lead us to an empty tomb and an Octave, eight days, of celebrating the Resurrection. They also introduce an entire liturgical season, the Easter Season, which lasts for Fifty days until Pentecost.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs us: "Beginning with the Easter Triduum as its source of light, the new age of the Resurrection fills the whole liturgical year with its brilliance. Gradually, on either side of this source, the year is transfigured by the liturgy. It really is a "year of the Lord's favor." The economy of salvation is at work within the framework of time, but since its fulfillment in the Passover of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the culmination of history is anticipated "as a foretaste," and the kingdom of God enters into our time.
"Therefore Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the "Feast of feasts," the "Solemnity of solemnities," just as the Eucharist is the "Sacrament of sacraments" (the Great Sacrament). St. Athanasius calls Easter "the Great Sunday" and the Eastern Churches call Holy Week "the Great Week." The mystery of the Resurrection, in which Christ crushed death, permeates with its powerful energy our old time, until all is subjected to him." (CCC #1168, 1169)
There is no better book to assist Bishops, Priests, Deacons, and lay men and women charged with the task of preparing truly good liturgies in the Modern Roman Rite than Monsignor Peter J. Elliott´s "Ceremonies of the Liturgical Year." Monsignor Elliott writes in his Introduction:
"Christians understand time in a different way from other people because of the Liturgical Year. We are drawn into a cycle that can become such a part of our lives that it determines how we understand the structure of each passing year. In the mind of the Christian, each passing year takes shape, not so much around the cycle of natural seasons, the financial or sporting year or academic semesters, but around the feasts, fasts and seasons of the Catholic Church. Without thinking much about it, from early childhood, we gradually learn to see time itself, past, present and future, in a new way. All of the great moments of the Liturgical Year look back to the salvific events of Jesus Christ, the Lord of History.
"Those events are made present here and now as offers of grace. This week is Holy not only because of what we remember but because of what it can accomplish within each one of us as we give our voluntary "Yes" to its´ invitation. To put it another way, in Christ time takes on a sacramental dimension. The Liturgical Year bears this sacramental quality of memorial, actuation and prophecy.
"Time becomes a re-enactment of Christ's saving events, His being born in our flesh, His dying and rising for us in that human flesh. Time thus becomes a pressing sign of salvation, the "day of the Lord", His ever present "hour of salvation", the kairos. Time on earth then becomes our pilgrimage through and beyond death toward the future Kingdom. The Liturgical Year is best understood both in its origins and current form in the way we experience time: in the light of the past, present and future… .
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