Candles light the beginning of an Easter Vigil Mass (Credit: Kevin Theriault)

We have begun a new liturgical year and have already prayed our way through the Advent and Christmas seasons. At this point, it is important to note that Lent begins just one month from now! Ash Wednesday is February 14, 2018.

The history of the origins of Lent begin with the initiation process in the church. Lent in the early church was the time of the intense preparation of the elect, those to be baptized at the Easter Vigil. The Church continues to try to renew these historical roots today. We, the already baptized, journey with the elect by joining in weeks of Lenten prayer, reflection, fasting and works of mercy to prepare us for the renewal of our own baptismal commitment at the Easter Vigil and throughout the Easter season.

Lent ends quietly sometime on the afternoon of Holy Thursday. The Triduum, which is the time period moving from sundown Holy Thursday to sundown on Easter Sunday is one movement of prayer for us as a community. It is the high point of our year. Triduum is to our liturgical year what Sunday is to our week. 

In our preparations, let’s remember what the document Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship says in paragraph 5:

“Faith grows when it is well expressed in celebration. Good celebrations can foster and nourish faith. Poor celebrations may weaken it.”

Every parish needs to keep this directive in mind. Our goal should always be to prepare liturgies that expand and beautify the ritual actions, and that everyone involved is well rehearsed and knowledgeable of their role, leading to a unified wholeness of prayer. Remember:

Pastors must therefore realize that when the liturgy is celebrated something more is required than the mere observance of the laws governing valid and lawful celebration…..” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, No. 11).

In order to guarantee good celebrations, parish committees need to start working together now to prepare for the Triduum. Don’t wait until the last minute! Consider Father Austin Fleming’s comments in his book Preparing the Liturgy: A Theology and Spirituality:

“To celebrate the liturgy without preparation is a violation of God’s holy presence and a crime against those who gather to celebrate that presence.”

It is always a good idea to begin by reflecting upon and evaluating how the various rituals of the Triduum were celebrated in your parish last year. What was done well and can be preserved, and what needs to improve in order to engage everyone in the deeper meanings of the rituals? Consider the major symbolic actions for each celebration, and try to expand the inherent beauty, not minimize:

1. Holy Thursday’s mandatum or command is the washing of feet.

2. Good Friday’s proclamation of Christ’s Passion and communal Adoration of the Cross are primary.

3. The Easter Vigil is loaded with beautiful symbols, actions and prayers. The light in darkness of the new fire and candlelight procession into church speak so eloquently of Christ,  light of the world. The proclamation of the story of salvation found in the total of nine readings bind us together in the kingdom of God. The initiation rituals take us all through the waters of salvation to the table of the Eucharist…. light, story, baptism, communion.

To help parishes get organized, the Office for Worship is offering workshops for pastors, parish staff members, liturgy committee members and parish musicians on preparing for the Triduum. Here is the schedule:

1. San Fernando Valley Region

Two evenings at Our Lady of Grace, Encino, in the Music Room from 7-9 p.m.

Tuesday, January 24, 2018 Music for the RCIA and Triduum

Tuesday, January 31, 2018 Parish Triduum Preparation for Liturgy Committees

2. Our Lady of the Angels Region

Lent and Triduum Preparation Workshops Saturday morning, February 3, 2018

at St. Paul the Apostle, Westwood from 8:30 AM-12:30 p.m.

Workshop A: Music for the RCIA and Triduum with Christopher Walker

Workshop B: Parish Triduum Preparation for Liturgy Committees with Joan Vos

3. Santa Barbara Region

Lent and Triduum Preparation Workshops Saturday morning, February 24, 2018

at Padre Serra Parish, Camarillo from 8:30 AM-12:30 p.m.

Workshop A: Music for the RCIA and Triduum

Workshop B: Parish Triduum Preparation for Liturgy Committees

For all of these workshops, please register online at store.la-archdiocese.org

The Office for Worship is also offering an evening for liturgical musicians to help them prepare spiritually for their ministry during these holy seasons of Lent and Easter. Join us for Re-Tilling the Soil: An Evening of Reflection and Renewal for Parish Musicians. It is being offered in two locations:

Tuesday, February 20, 2018 at Annunication Church, Arcadia, 7-9 p.m.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 at St. Anthony Church, Oxnard, 7-9 p.m..

Please register online at store.la-archdiocese.org.