24 March 2016
24 Mar 2016

The Triduum

by  John van den Hengel, scj

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The poles are within us
while waking,
we sleep across, up to the Gate
of Mercy

(Paul Celam, To Name Jerusalem 3:105)

The poles between the perpetrators and the victims may indeed be insurmountable; justice is not up to the task. The sacred three days after forty days of Lent bring us to the Gate of Mercy. The triduum is part of the great divide: between darkness and light, between death and life, between humanity’s inner bleakness and the gate of mercy.

We strip the altars; we cover the treasures, we darken the sacred spaces. We attack our pride; we acknowledge our poverty and betrayals and face the death that is in us. We go down into sheol where we too live among the dead. And we wait. A long time, perhaps. The crosses are many. .. We hear the eerie cries of today’s many refugees who did not make it, of those who were bombed into oblivion by barrel bombs, of those who drowned in the sea, of those who are left behind barbed- wire borders of countries, fearful of mercy, our own timid hearts.

“Who will roll the stone for us?” the women asked. Who indeed? We prepare the oil of Spirit power, the water that leads from death to life, the song of “the night when Christ broke the prison-bars of death,” our own way to the tomb that was empty, the church’s alleluia. We behold the cloth that hid his face: it “was rolled up in a place by itself.” (John 20.7) The gate of mercy is revealed. It needs our Easter faith: He is risen; he is risen indeed.

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