Small ways to make your Triduum better

How do you keep the Triduum well? The obvious and maybe best way is to take advantage of whatever your parish is offering on these three final days before Easter: Holy Thursday Mass, veneration of the cross, stations of the cross, Tenebrae, adoration. Or if you can’t do these things with your fellow Catholics in person, you can certainly do many of them at home. Here’s Tenebrae; here’s stations.

But some of us are just barely hanging on, and getting up and going to a service that’s not obligatory could very well just be too much. And many of us are doing okay, but we have multiple obligations that keep us from dropping everything mundane and plunging entirely into spiritual exercises. We have to live our everyday lives while still somehow preparing ourselves and maybe our families for the most holy and solemn and meaningful three days of the entire year. How do we pull that off?

Here are a few ideas that require no preparation, and you can do them immediately, and they may help put you in the right frame of mind for the Triduum. 

Don’t denounce anybody. If you spend any time on social media, this one is harder than it might seem. So many people are so ripe for denunciation! But you can just take a pause and remember that all sins, all the ones you detest in other people, and all the ones you excuse in yourself, all are accounted for in the cross. So take a pause, and let the cross account for them, rather than doing it yourself, just for now. It doesn’t mean you’re condoning evil or looking the other way or being one of those much-maligned good men who says nothing. You’re just acknowledging that this is the one week when right and wrong is bigger than you and your wagging finger. 

Quiet down. Just . . . quiet down, everywhere. Quiet your voice, quiet the radio, quiet your music. Take everything down a notch, or turn it off altogether. Opt out of anything optional that’s raucous or frenetic, just for a few days. Triduum is a short, strange, unsettling time, and it’s good to help ourselves feel the strangeness of it by removing some of the ordinary bustle and noise of our everyday life if possible. 

Listen. Make a particular effort to listen to the people around you. Give them your full attention when they are talking to you, and try to respond to them as humanely as you can. When you go outdoors, listen to the sounds of the natural world, and be more aware of the complexity of the millions of little lives that surround you. And try to be ready to listen to the tiny, easy-to-ignore voice of the Holy Spirit that patiently waits and waits for you to be ready to listen. 

Go to bed a little bit earlier. Not everyone can. Lots of people have no choice about how much sleep they get. But many of us, me included, stay up late for no good reason, and it has a bad effect on them and everyone they interact with the next day. In a small act of self-discipline, try sending yourself to bed sooner than you’d like. It’s not self-indulgent. Even Jesus rested over Holy Saturday. He didn’t die for our sins and then bounce right back up again out of the grave, but he rested. I know He was busy scouring the underworld, but I do believe he was also taking a break. Rest is very much baked into who we are and who God is, so if we’re ever going to make a point of doing it, let’s do it before Easter if we possibly can. 

Be content with whatever your Lent has been. If you haven’t used your Lent in any especially admirable way, there’s not really any such thing as scrambling to make up for lost time at the last minute. That was never what it was about anyway. We all show up empty-handed. You can offer up failure to the Lord, too, and He receives that as graciously as any great achievement or sacrifice. The point is to show up. Always show up. The only mistake you can make is to stay away. 

Pray for me, and I will pray for you! 

Image: Pieta tryptich by Luis de Morales, 1570, Museo Nacional del Prado via Picryl

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7 thoughts on “Small ways to make your Triduum better”

  1. I’m curious how people keep the solemn in the Triduum without turning off their kids? As a teen, I always worked doubles on Holy Thursday and Good Friday just because my Mom was such a downer. As a young 20 something, I remember coming home for Easter Break and being with most of my siblings for the first time in a long while. As often happened, we ended up playing a cutthroat, raucous game of Hearts at the dining room table. My mother poked her head in and said, disapprovingly, it’s Good Friday.” That was the last time I went to my parents’ home for Easter weekend.

    Most of my adult kids are here for the weekend. Right now they’re howling with laughter over some Billy Joel songs bracket my daughter conjured up. It makes my heart soar to hear my children getting along so well. I’m not going to intervene, but should I? I’d love to hear people’s thoughts.

    1. My kids are still young, but maybe it’ll give you some thoughts…

      We have positive traditions. On Holy Thursday, we watch The Prince of Egypt as a family and have a “not-actually-a-Seder” meal of lamb (the one time of year we eat mutton) and matzo and we talk about how “this is what Jesus ate”. On Good Friday, we do a Divine Mercy Chaplet as a family at 3pm and I have a crucifix with a little detachable corpus that we take off and put in a paper mache tomb.

      Beyond that– I let the kids be themselves. I might keep the TV off, but they play and do all the stuff they normally do. There’s opportunity to think about the passion and the spiritual stuff, but it’s not oppressive.

      1. Thanks for your response! That’s basically what we’ve been doing all these years. Many years ago, the kids developed their own Good Friday tradition of watching “The Prince of Egypt.” Like most young people today, they don’t really watch much TV, but the ones that were home did get up early to watch “The Prince of Egypt” together on Good Friday morning – right before they left for the Phillies home opener. With all the laughing, hooting, and hollering later that evening, I was feeling a little like my mother must have felt all those years ago, but I so remembered her response to us kids that I kept my mouth shut around my own kids and even joined them a bit in their fun.

        Thanks to this post, my husband and I have talked about our family’s Triduum observance this year and have decided that going forward, we’re just going to continue to enjoy the rare times when the whole family gets together. The years are flying by and we don’t think there will be too many more like this one, where all our kids (adults and teens) are home together. There aren’t any grandchildren yet but we’re anticipating that one or two of the boys may get engaged in the next year or so. And who knows what changes that will bring?

  2. A beautiful point about offering up failure to the Lord and that He will graciously accept it. A spiritual and practical piece that I really enjoyed reading.

  3. O my word: I was just thinking, as I sat down to pray this morning, how could I take the Triduum more seriously: ponder it, and actively participate in it instead of just going to the Liturgies and then having my mind and heart elsewhere when I’m not at church.

    I really appreciated this post! Thank you for writing and posting it, Simcha. Prayers for you and your family. ✝️

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