Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader is writing on his blog on a Saturday afternoon. Holy Saturday as a matter of fact. What are the odds of that happening? He would have said very low until he actually started writing… Here is a Holy Triduum brain dump.
So today is the final day of the Holy Triduum. Your Maximum Leader has been (so far) and will continue (barring the unexpected) to celebrate the Holy Triduum. He attended Mass on Holy Thursday (the Feast of the Last Supper) and Good Friday (The Passion of Our Lord). He plans on going to the Easter Vigil Mass tonight (The Resurrection of Our Lord).
Given that your Maximum Leader has pretty much failed at all that he resolved to do this Lenten season; he has been acutely aware of what has been going on during the Triduum. It is as though he feels that by being EXTRA good these three days he’ll somehow make up for being a lazy arse for all of Lent. But by being conscious and aware in the moment during the previous two days has lead him to make two observations. The first is that he is profoundly discomforted at both the Holy Thursday and Good Friday Masses. The second is that he does truly love the Easter Vigil Mass.
Allow your Maximum Leader to expand on the first point. The discomfort that your Maximum Leader has during the Holy Thursday mass is twofold and in both instances relates to the extraordinary event of that Mass. The event is, of course, the washing of feet by the priest. The first bit of discomfort is just your Maximum Leader having a thing about people touching his feet. He doesn’t care for it at all. He doesn’t want his feet to be touched. In the same way that he really dislikes massages, he dislikes touching of the feet. So to watch someone wash the feet of someone else sorta puts your Maximum Leader off a little bit.
Then there is the fact that the priest is washing the feet of a parishioner/someone. Your Maximum Leader understands why this happens and the theology behind it; but perhaps your Maximum Leader identifies with Peter a little too much when Peter protests having his feet washed (John 13: 8-11). Your Maximum Leader knows that this service of the priest is symbolic of the larger call to service; but it is discomforting. Your Maximum Leader believes that he would likely decline an offer to have his priest, bishop or even the Pope himself wash his feet. It would be too much for your Maximum Leader - given his feet hangup among other items.
The discomfort your Maximum Leader feels on Good Friday comes from the reading of the Passion according to Saint John. For those of you unfamiliar with the practice, on Good Friday the Passion according to Saint John is read by the priest officiant and others. Basically the Chapters 18 and 19 of the Gospel of Saint John are read in their entirety. The priest officiant reads the part of Jesus. Another person reads the “narrative” and a third (and possibly others) read all of the other spoken lines. In some cases the assembled congregation reads the lines of the “crowd.”
Since he was young this has been a difficult Mass. To have John read aloud is a very different experience than to read it to oneself. To have different voices reading aloud is more moving. At your Maximum Leader’s parish, the Passion is sung - which seems to unsettle your Maximum Leader even more. At some level your Maximum Leader’s modern sensibilities are what are disrupted by the account of the Passion. He is offended by the betrayal of Judas for money. Selling out someone for money really offends your Maximum Leader. Then the legal railroading of Jesus by the High Priest. Your Maximum Leader has something of a legalist mindset himself and to use the law to an unjust end offends him as well. (NB: Your Maximum Leader understands that “the law” in almost any context is not the same as “justice.” That will have to be a discussion for another time…) Then there is the whole interaction with Pilate. Of all of the parts of the Passion this one affects your Maximum Leader the most. Of all the actors in this story the one your Maximum Leader identifies with the most is Pontius Pilate. He couldn’t tell you why, but he does. Pilate tries and tries to do the “right” thing; but is blocked at every maneuver from doing what he wants to do. He tries to get the crowd to ask for Jesus’ release; but the Sanhedrin has control of the crowd. He tries to get Jesus to say something incriminating in order that Jesus’ execution would be more justified. But Jesus doesn’t give him any room to move. He is cornered. What makes this passage all the more emotional for your Maximum Leader is the knowledge that the Romans (by the by) were not averse to executing people to begin with. The list of capital offenses was long. The Romans liked to keep order and strict enforcement of the law (and required executions) was good for Roman rule - particularly in a difficult province like Judea. So the actions of Pontius Pilate seem so extraordinary as to be disturbing. It is hard for your Maximum Leader to wrap his brain around the idea that a Roman Governor would actively try to NOT execute someone that the locals WANTED to be executed (and thus keep peace and order) unless the Roman Governor was absolutely positive that the person was undeserving of execution. Pilate is a sad figure to your Maximum Leader. He imagines Pilate as a world-weary man who is looking to keep the peace in a hostile environment. From what little your Maximum Leader knows of Pontius Pilate outside of the context of the Bible only reinforces your Maximum Leader’s opinion that Pilate was forced into the execution of Jesus. Your Maximum Leader has a great deal of empathy towards Pilate in the Gospel of John. The empathy is rooted in a feeling that Pilate himself felt trapped and was left with no recourse but what he did.
(NB: Your Maximum Leader, while he is expressing sympathy for Pontius Pilate will go a little further and say that he has always wondered why Pilate’s name remains in the Nicene Creed. Is it REALLY so important that the authority underwhich Jesus was crucified be recalled so permanently?)
Between Pilate asking rhetorically “What is truth?” and the washing of his hands; your Maximum Leader gets pretty worked up about the Passion.
Then there is the very language of the Gospel that discomforts your Maximum Leader… The language of two words: The Jews. The Jews cried out. The Jews wanted Barabbas. The Jews wanted Jesus dead. The Jews did it all. Your Maximum Leader is not an anti-Semitic guy. If anything your Maximum Leader is a pro-Semitic guy. So the language of the Gospel of John makes your Maximum Leader’s skin crawl. He ponders the persecution of the Jewish people throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. He thinks of the Inquisition. He thinks of the Holocaust. All because of John repeated “The Jews” over and over again. For what it is worth, your Maximum Leader asks for forgiveness every Good Friday for all the anti-Semitic things ever done that were inspired by John’s Gospel.
So, there is now, in the rear-view, Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Today there is the Easter Vigil.
Now many of your Maximum Leader’s fellow Catholics don’t like the Easter Vigil. It is too long according to most. He supposes that Catholics are conditioned to be done with Mass in about an hour. When it goes over an hour we must get fidgety. So, there are many Catholics that avoid the Easter Vigil Mass. Afterall, the Easter Vigil Mass has nine (9) readings, with singing from the Psalms between most. That adds time right there. Then add in that you will get baptisms and confirmations done too… In most parishes you are looking at 2 hrs minimum.
All that being said, the Easter Vigil Mass is your Maximum Leader’s absolute favorite Mass of the year. He’d never been to one until a few years back. After going to one he wondered why he’d never gone before. For all of the discomfort and angst that your Maximum Leader feels during the first two days of the Triduum; he really does feel good during the Easter Vigil. Everything good in the liturgical practice of the Catholic Church (and for that matter many of the Orthodox Churches) is present in this one service. It is uplifting and it does renew your Maximum Leader’s faith (such as it is…)
So there it is… A brain dump on the Holy Triduum…
Not normal fare exactly for this blog - as if there is a normal fare any more for this blog…
But there it is…
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