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Apr 8, 2020

Holy Week, Triduum, and Easter Devotions from Home

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio

Sundown on Holy Thursday during Holy Week marks the beginning of three sacred days (Triduum) that changed the destiny of the human race.

This year, due to the COVID-19 crisis, many will not be able to attend the special liturgies that help make this time so special. Let’s flip this situation positive by doing some of the quiet personal and family prayers that we often don’t have time to do in normal times. 

It would be a tragedy to let this extended “stay-at-home” period go by without taking some time for extended prayer and reflection. So steal away for as much time as you can and let the Spirit help you pick and choose which of these Holy Week and Triduum devotions will best help you make the most of this special time.

Holy Thursday – Beginning of the Triduum

John 13:1-18:27 deals with the beginning of the Triduum—the words and deeds of Jesus on the evening of Holy Thursday, including the washing of feet of the disciples and the Last Supper discourse and priestly prayer of our Lord, Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemani and Peter’s denial. Prayerfully read as much of this as you can. These are some of the most powerful and moving chapters in the entire Bible, perfect for prayer during Holy Week.

Good Friday Morning

1.) Repent for Complicity in Christ’s Betrayal

Read Luke 22:39 through Luke 23:26, but only after a moment of prayer in which you ask the Holy Spirit to answer these questions in the course of your reading:

1. In what way am I an accomplice in the betrayal and execution of the Lord?

2. Whom in the Gospel narrative do I most resemble: the disciples asleep in the garden? the cowardly Peter? the irresponsible Pilate? someone else?

3. Write down the answers in your journal, if you keep one. If not, start one.

In response to the Spirit’s prompting

1. Pray a prayer repenting of the particular sins in your life that have made you an accomplice in the Lord’s betrayal and execution.

2. Confidently ask the Lord to help you to root these sins out of your life.

3. Engage in any spiritual warfare necessary to dislodge the Enemy from the area of your life under consideration by renouncing Satan and all his empty promises. Invoke angelic help through the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.

4. Finally, seal this process by a slow, prayerful reading of Psalm 51. You might even feel led to memorize a portion of it.

2.) Put on the Mind of Christ

Now that we have cast off the “mind” of darkness, we can put on “the mind of Christ.”

1. Read Philippians 2:5-11 and consider how Jesus’ humble self-offering on the Cross was the perfect manifestation of his “mind.”

2. Read Philippians 2:1-5, 14-15 and see how St. Paul commands us to have the same mind as the Lord.

3. Ask the Lord what particular characteristics of his mind he wishes to impart to you in a new way during these special days: humility?  obedience? a new degree of self-giving love expressed through humble service of others? Some other? Ask him to show you how this is to be worked out concretely and practically in the present circumstances of your life. Write in your journal whatever the Holy Spirit brings to mind.

4. Say yes to what he wants to do in you and ask him to make it happen by the power of his Spirit.

5. Use Psalm 116, one of the “Hallel” Psalms prayed by Jesus at the Last Supper, to express your gratitude to the Lord for freeing you from sin through his death and for bestowing upon you his mind.

Good Friday Afternoon

The most solemn time of the Triduum, Holy Week, and indeed the whole Christian year, is from noon to 3:00 PM on Good Friday since that was the time of the Lord’s agony on the Cross according to the Gospel of John.  During this time, we should strive to honor the death of the Lord in the most personal and heartfelt way possible.

1. Meditate slowly and deeply upon Isaiah 52:13 through Isaiah 53:13. This is the song of the Suffering Servant.

2. Read Zechariah 12:10 and respond with silent prayer of mourning and adoration. You may want to make use of “the Jesus Prayer” which consists of the following petition repeated over and over: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

3. In Jesus’ time, the way to refer to a Psalm was not by its number but by it’s first line. Jesus’ cry from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” is the first line of Psalm 22. Read the entire Psalm slowly as if the whole thing were Jesus’ prayer from the Cross.

4. Meditate on Hebrews 9:11-28. This Scripture passage relates how Christ the High Priest, by the shedding of his own blood, enters the sanctuary once and for all.

5. Read the selections from Melito and Ephrem found in the Holy Week Library of the Crossroads Initiative. Use the thanksgiving prayer on the same page to help you express gratitude for what the Lord did for us through his suffering and death.

Holy Saturday

Holy Saturday is a day of waiting, a day of silence. Most Christian churches allow no celebrations on this day, including burials, weddings, Eucharist or Lord’s Supper, and so on. In some churches, Communion is only offered to those in imminent danger of death! All this is a tremendous reminder of salvation by grace working through faith (waiting). Our Christian life is completely dependent upon the Lord’s resurrection, but there is absolutely nothing we can do to make this happen. So we wait and meditate on the statement of the Apostle’s Creed: “He descended into hell.”

1. Ponder Psalm 16 and Psalm 24. The “gates” mentioned in the latter psalm can refer to the “gates” of hell, which Jesus, the man with clean hands and pure heart, enters after his righteous death in order to liberate those who are held captive there.

2. Meditate on Romans 6:3-11.

3. Read the amazing Holy Saturday homily preserved from the days of the Early Church as found in the Holy Week library of the Crossroads Initiative.

Easter Week

The Resurrection of the Lord is too great of an event to celebrate for only one day! Following the Jewish practice of celebrating the Passover for eight days (an “octave”), the early Church celebrated Easter in high gear for an entire week. One great way for us to continue this tradition is to read a different resurrection Scripture each day of Easter week and attend the Eucharist daily, or at least on as many days during the Easter octave as we can.

Monday: Matthew 28:8-15

Tuesday: John 20:11-18

Wednesday: Luke 24:13-35

Thursday: Luke 24:35-48

Friday: John 21:1-14

Saturday: Mark 16:9-15

Sunday: John 20:19-31

See also the other Triduum readings, prayers, and resources in the Holy Week section and the Easter Section of The Crossroads Initiative Library.

For more on Palm Sunday and Holy Week, see the Holy Week section of the Crossroads Initiative Library

You May Also Like:

The Role of Hope in Holy Week [Fr. Mike video]

3 Ideas for Holy Week [Girlfriends podcast]

From a colorful and varied background as a professor of theology, a father of five, business owner, and professional performer Marcellino D’Ambrosio (a.k.a. “Dr. Italy”) crafts talks, blog posts, books, and videos that are always fascinating, practical, and easy to understand. He is a popular speaker, TV and radio personality, New York Times best-selling author, and pilgrimage host who has been leading people on a journey of discovery for over thirty years. For a fuller bio and video, visit the Dr. Italy page. For a full Curriculum Vitae (CV) of Dr. Italy, click here.

Featured image, “Jesus Taken off the Cross” sourced from Crossroad Initiative

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  • This is FANTASTIC! I’m still working my way through the exercises, and I have been finding them all so very fruitful. I am new to the Ascension website and Facebook page… found you during the last couple of weeks of lent, while on “Lockdown”. Truly, your platforms have blessed and informed my lenten journey like never before! Thank you so much.

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