The most striking worship celebrations of the Christian church happen every year at the end of the Lenten season. There is no greater contrast between darkness and light than the eclipse and glory that were experienced by Jesus’ disciples between the Last Supper and Easter morning. For centuries, Christians have marked the progression of these events through worship. They reenact these bedrock events to honor Christ, celebrate salvation, and grow in the way of Jesus through imitation and reflection. This period of time in the Church’s calendar has traditionally been referred to as the Paschal Triduum or “The Three Days.”
“The events framed by Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and his resurrection are some of the most dramatic and theologically important of the entire scriptural narrative. These days feature not only the drama of the triumphal entry, trial, last supper, and crucifixion but also Jesus’ poignant prayers and prophetic teachings. John’s gospel devotes eight of its twenty-one chapters to this week alone—reminding us of a common observation that the gospels are “passion narratives with long introductions.” The week begins with Passion/Palm Sunday and ends with the “three days” (also called the Triduum, from sunset on Thursday to sunset on Easter Day), the period during which we mark Jesus’ trial, death, and resurrection.” -from The Worship Sourcebook, 2nd Edition.
“He laid aside His garments, when, being in the form of God, He emptied Himself; He girded Himself with a towel, took upon Him the form of a servant; He poured water into a basin, out of which He washed His disciples’ feet. He shed His blood on the earth, with which He washed away the filth of their Sins; He wiped them with the towel wherewith He was girded; with the flesh wherewith He was clothed, He established the steps of the Evangelists; He laid aside His garments, to gird Himself with the towel; that He might take upon Him the form of a servant, He emptied Himself, not laying aside indeed what He had, but assuming what He had not. Before He was crucified, He was stripped of His garments, and when dead was wound up in linen clothes: the whole bowl of His passion is our cleansing.”
-Augustine, as quoted by Thomas Aquinas in Catena Aurea on the Gospel for the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper
Lent began over five weeks ago on Ash Wednesday. Over the course of this week, Christians around the world will re-enact and remember the days leading up to Christ’s death and resurrection. This journey towards the cross began on Palm Sunday with a commemoration of Jesus entry into Jerusalem on a donkey. The people who confessed and praised him as the Savior King later cry out, “…crucify him, crucify him!”
On Monday and Tuesday, Jesus returned to Jerusalem from Bethany and purified the Temple, fulfilling prophecies from the Old Testament (ex. Malachi 3:1-5). In Jerusalem, tensions continued to run high between Jesus and the religious rulers. Wednesday of Holy week is traditionally called “Spy Wednesday” because the enemies of Jesus were watching him closely and looking for an opportunity to capture him. On this day, the anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany is juxtaposed with the tragic betrayal of Judas.
“The Lord gives us a teachable heart so that we might encourage others (Isaiah 50:4-9a). When we are grieved and discouraged, we turn to God in trust for help (Psalm 31:9-16) knowing that he gave his only son Jesus, who came to earth (Luke 19:28-40) to die for us on the cross (Philippians 2:5-11).” -Thomas Oden, Ancient Christian Devotional
God continually promises to deliver his people and provide for them for his names’ sake (Isaiah 43:16-21). God’s past deliverance provides hope for those who are weeping in the present (Psalm 126). Our confidence is in Christ, and not in our selves, as we continue to press on in faith, participating in Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection (Philippians 3:4-14). In humility, we follow Mary’s example by laying all that we have at Jesus’ feet (John 12:1-8).