“The Three Days”/Triduum Lite – A Reconceptualization

          A number of churches in North America have regained a sense of the Church Year since the 1960’s. And that is a good thing.

          However, lumping the three days of Easter weekend together under the rubric of “The Three Days” is, in my judgment, less helpful than it might be. And that’s because this rubric covers three days of very different theological and historical valency. Being under one rubric, however, tends to obscure the critical differences between them and inclines us to treat them as simply days on which things important to the Christian faith happened. I suggest this is a woefully inadequate approach. And combined with the near universal neglect of Holy Saturday divests what happened on this weekend of much of its meaning and power.

          Good Friday-Holy Saturday-Easter Sunday are “The Three Days” of Easter weekend. Usually reduced to just Good Friday and Easter by ignoring Holy Saturday we dilute the power and potential of this great celebration as a time and tool of Spirit-ual[1] growth. Add to that our individualist mindset that shapes our concerns around what happens to and for us as individuals. What we have here is usually is a Three Days or Triduum Lite.

          We can rethink these days, though, if we attend to the full theological reality of Jesus as Lord. As such, he is not dying only or even primarily to save individuals. No, the scope of Jesus’ death is far more than that. In fact, it’s nothing less than a cosmic act of redemption played out in the key of death and resurrection.

          Good Friday, then, is best conceived, I suggest as “the end of the world as we know it” (R.E.M song). And I mean that in the most realistic sense possible. Paradoxically, this is “Good” Friday precisely because it is the end of everything. Jesus’ death robs this world of its reality. In putting him to death, the power of sin/evil/death reached its irrational and suicidal peak. Jesus’ body, hanging bloodied and dead, is its suicide note!

          If Good Friday is in reality this cosmic ending, we are at an end too. For we are part of this sin/evil/death complex. Its suicide is our suicide too!

          That brings us to the much-neglected Holy Saturday. We usually pass over it in incomprehension. But if we consider it as the time after “the end of the world as you know it” Holy Saturday takes on a whole new feeling and significance. After this “end of the world,” we, the living dead, are literally nowhere. Holy Saturday is a time of liminality. A time what and who we were and did and what and who we will be and will do. A time of ambivalence, uncertainty, lack of direction, fear. The cry of the heart in liminality is well-captured by U2 in their song “Wake Up Dead Man.”

Jesus help me
I'm alone in this world
And a fucked up world it is too
Tell me
Tell me the story
The one about eternity
And the way it's all gonna be
Wake up
Wake up dead man
Wake up
Wake up dead man

I'm waiting here boss
I know you're looking out for us
But maybe your hands aren't free
Your Father
He made the world in seven
He's in charge of heaven
Will you put a word in for me

Wake up
Wake up dead man
Wake up
Wake up dead man

Listen to your words
They'll tell you what to do
Listen over the rhythm that's confusing you
Listen to the reed in the saxophone
Listen over the hum of the radio
Listen over the sounds of blades in rotation
Listen through the traffic and circulation
Listen as hope and peace try to rhyme
Listen over marching bands playing out their time

Wake up
Wake up dead man
Wake up
Wake up dead man

Were you just around the corner?
Did you think to try and warn her?
Or are you working on something new?
If there's and order
In all of this disorder
Is it like a tape recorder?
Can we rewind it just once more

Wake up
Wake up dead man
Wake up
Wake up dead man

Wake up
Wake up dead man

          This is the harsh and gritty reality of Holy Saturday. As we today move through these days prior to Easter we cannot act as if we do not know what happens next. But in Christian faith the phenomenon of “remembering” is not simply mental recollection but rather a “representation” of what is remembered such that it becomes present to us. This, I think, is the way we can engage Good Friday and Holy Saturday with integrity and feel something of the grim reality they embody. A prayerful openness to the terror of the end of our world and the liminal time beyond may hold real possibilities for our journey through the Three Days this year.

The Easter Vigil ushers us into Easter. But this Easter is far more than just the dead Jesus coming back to life. Far more. Neither is it simply a miraculous event that proves that God is powerful enough to do such a thing. But the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is:

-new creation: The old world, dead by its own hand, is astonished by Jesus because beyond death Jesus is present with them again as and in a new creation.

-new life: Jesus’ resurrection includes all of us in his new creation. That old world has and is passing away. It’s hold on us broken and are now “in Christ.” Henceforth, who we are and what we are to be about in the world is to live as God originally intended, as his image-bearers, stewards, royal priests in God’s temple of creation.

-new destiny: Jesus’ resurrection is far more than individual forgiveness. Rather, as Paul tells us, he has reconciled “all things” to himself. Everything that has gone wrong in people and creation has been made right. This creation intended to be God’s home with us creation forever has been made that place of habitation through the resurrection. Till then we will live into that newness coming fully with Christ’s return by caring fir and treating the earth and its creatures as the privileged place it is and will be – God’s home!

Something new even happens to God in Jesus’ resurrection. As the risen and soon to be ascended one, we realize that a human being will forever be a part of God. And he will forever be one of us. As he has always wanted and intended from eternity. The closest of identification, solidarity, and communion now exists between God and humanity. We have no real idea of what that means at this point, but that’s a big something to look forward to!

Now, in the light of Easter we can see that Friday and Saturday are indeed “Good” and “Holy,” not in and of themselves but as a result of God’s mighty act of deliverance in and through Jesus Christ. But to be a place and time of growth for us, a full and rich Three Days/Triduum, I think we must engage it in some fashion as I described above. Prayer, memory, and an appropriate view of Jesus as Lord can fit us to experience the benefits of this most holy, decisive, and important moment in the history of God’s fulfilment of his “eternal purpose” (Eph.3:10) to be for us, one of us, and with us. Forever.

This is the genuine Three Days, not the Three Days Lite as has been much of our experience in North America.

[1] Spirit-ual is my way to capture the Christian significance of a word widely used to a focus human inwardness and efforts to develop or grow that inwardness. The capital “S” indicates that the Holy Spirit is the focus and agent of Christian growth and must be interacted with if we hope to experience such growth.


Popular posts from this blog

Spikenard Sunday/Palm Sunday by Kurt Vonnegut

The time when America stopped being great

Idolatry of the Family