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The Holy Triduum 2022 Year C
Just before this Holy Week I watched and listened to the French pianist Hélène Grimaud play Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor.  According to the program Notes, Mozart did not write many works in minor tonalities, but those that he did were particularly impactful.
Grimaud said they “provide a glimpse behind the mask of jollity [cheerfulness] that surrounds many of his famous works.” The Notes added: “this particular concerto is a symbolic representation of an encounter with fate, where drama and tragedy meet, and an apt reminder that not all is as it seems.”
During this Christian Holy Week we track the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and explore more deeply why his story of victory over evil is still so compelling. The three-act drama of the Triduum reveals that, as a human family, not all is as it seems. Beneath whatever cheeriness [jollity] we might enjoy, we are hurting inside.
Christians maintain that Jesus of Nazareth “died to save us from our sins.” But, the endless sinful clash between good and evil continues to damage dreams of happiness and peace. Greg Boyle SJ offered a positive way to deal with sin. He wrote Jesus is “calling us to joy.” 
In this light, the words of ethicist Reinhold Niebuhr’s prayer is a moral summons that can help remove the masks that cover up jubilation: “God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.” 
The days of Holy Week are clarion calls to change what should be changed. That’s what Jesus set out to do. It is easy to think that the Triduum is just about the final days of the Jewish prophet from Galilee. It bluntly reminds us that sorrow and joy in the world are inseparable and it is our responsibility to make things better. What can be gained by his death is our concern.
The first act, Holy Thursday, is about relationships. Aware of his imminent death Jesus got together with close friends for a simple supper. He surprised everyone as he washed their feet. Then at table, knowing he was about to die, he explained the symbolism of the unleavened bread of affliction and freedom (see Deuteronomy 16:3). He did the same with the cup of redemption (see Jeremiah 31:32). Jesus identified with the bread as his fractured body and the wine as his spewed blood. He invited the women and men in the room to carry on his mission in his memory.
The liturgy of the eucharist is a powerful reminder that Christians are united in a unique relationship not only with Christ but with each other. We leave the liturgy nourished by word and sacrament to feed those who are hungry for liberty, to wash and heal their bodies, to mend the hearts and minds wounded by war and other injustices.
Behind the celebration of Easter is the gruesome second act, Good Friday. Jesus died an excruciating death on a wooden crossbeam. During liturgy worshipers take turns carrying a large cross to show that all Christians are called to reveal the meaning of the cross to the world.
Other groups mark the way of the cross in city streets stopping at various stations — court houses, shelters, super markets, jails, banks, food pantries. The presence of the cross is a reminder that not that not all is as it seems. Not all people enjoy even basic equities; chances to advance.
The cross Jesus died on is a tree of life, a cue that working for justice can bear good fruit. The continual presence of a cross in many houses of worship reminds us of our weighty responsibility to move forward, advancing the human rights of all. In the words of Pope Francis: “may we not let ourselves be robbed of the hope of a new humanity, of new heavens and a new earth.”
The climatic act in the holy week, Easter Sunday, celebrates the raising of Jesus from the dead. It provides impetus to repair a distressed world. Biblical interpreter Walter Brueggemann called the resurrection “the ultimate energizing for the new future … for the disinherited.”
Like those who first saw the empty tomb we are buoyed up by the constancy of the soul of the Human One that did not die. That Spirit continues to live on in those who embrace his ministry. Easter is not about one person being raised up from the dead. It is a raising up of all people with a fresh ray of joy and hope because not all is as it seems.
1. With the Camerata Salzburg at Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg
2. Boyle, Gregory. The Whole Language: The Power of Extravagant Tenderness (NY: Avid Reader Press, 2021) 184
3. The original 1932 quote reads “… things that should be changed” rather than “…things that can be changed.”