The Easter Triduum
Fifty-one weeks of the year it usually works very well for our parish newsletter to be dated beginning with Sunday as the first day of the week. For Christians, Sunday is the first day of the week, the first day of the new creation, the day of the Resurrection. During Holy Week, time for Christians is different, very different. I am actually writing to you early on Good Friday. It is the morning of the first day of the Easter Triduum.
The church was stripped and veiled last night after the extraordinary first liturgy of the Three Days, the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. Bishop Griswold’s presence with us as celebrant and preacher meant that this year our liturgy had the added dimension of “episcopal” (that is, related to bishops) ceremonial. The grace and dignity of our Presiding Bishop, his warm, loving and gentle presence is such a powerful witness to God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.
Customary episcopal ceremonial seems to extend time and to invite us deeper into rites that already speak so richly of God’s life and love. Despite all of the rehearsals and notes made by the clergy and servers, the service is not scripted as closely as one might imagine. It’s not theater; it’s liturgy. As it turned out, a regular member of the congregation washed the feet of the Presiding Bishop. A member of the choir washed my feet. What is crucial is that we were doing what Jesus told us to do.
In a little while we will be singing Morning Prayer in the nave of the church. The Watch before the Blessed Sacrament will be continuing in the Mercy Chapel. The chapel smells this morning of incense, flowers and beeswax - from the candles. It is a lovely smell, different from the rest of the year. And although the phrase does not trip off the tongue, it is a “Triduum smell.” It only happens on the Three Days.
Last night after the Mass, Leroy Sharer, a longtime member of the parish, brought me and a few others into the church from the sacristy and told us to look up at the back of the altar. The lights of the church were on. The air was heavy with incense. But the altar was bare. Whenever one looks up at the altar the rest of the year there are candlesticks on it and the altar cross. The sight spoke, as did the silence during the liturgy, of the mystery of redemption.
All of the work. I am constantly reminded of all of the work that people give all of the time to make Saint Mary’s common life possible. The amount of time and money that are given freely and solely out of love for God and this place is almost unbelievable. It really isn’t the ritual and ceremony that makes us who we are. It’s the giving hearts of so many.
Last thoughts. Although the organ has been played during Lent only to support and sustain the singing of hymns (an ancient and much neglected catholic custom), I have gotten to listen to a considerable amount of organ during the week because our musicians are practicing for Easter. (I’ve also gotten to listen to organ tuning.) There will be a lovely organ recital - a great program - before Evensong on Easter Day by Robert McDermitt. Robert McCormick will play Widor’s Toccata from Symphonie V after the Solemn Mass on Easter Day. But he will also be playing Improvisation sur le “Victimae paschali” after the Great Vigil of Easter. It is the most extraordinary piece. If incense is the smell of the destruction of the kingdom of Satan, Tournemire is the sound. Our lives are changed as we increasingly recognize God’s presence in us and in our world. At no time do we have any greater opportunity really to see, hear and taste the goodness of the Lord than during these Three Days. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Isaura and Margaret who are hospitalized, and for Peter, Loretta, Eva, Nicholas, Bart, Brett, Nora, Nicole, Jack, Thomas, Sarah, Grover, Annie, Patricia, Paul, Robert, Gloria, Jerri, Margaret, Marion, Olga, Rick, Charles, priest, and Paul, bishop, for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Timothy, Jonathan, Patrick, Edward, Keith, Kevin, Christopher, Andrew, Joseph, Mark, Ned, Timothy, David, John and Colin . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . April 24: 1993 Claude Cecil Morris, Jr.; April 27: 1953: Hugh M. Smallwood; 1994: Frances Flagg.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . You will be delighted if you bring a hand bell to the Great Vigil – to ring during the “great noise” . . . Reminder: You may receive Easter Communion at the Great Vigil and on Easter Day . . . The clergy do not sit for confessions on Easter Saturday, April 26, (or on the Saturday after Christmas Day). Our regular Saturday services are offered on Easter Saturday: Noonday Office at 12:00 PM, Mass at 12:15 PM, and Evening Prayer at 5:00 PM
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . On Easter Day at the Sung Mass, the prelude will be Grand Dialogue (Troisième Suite) by Louis Marchand (1669-1732) and the postlude will be Heut triumphieret Gottes Sohn, BWV 630 by J. S. Bach (1685-1750). At the Solemn Mass, the prelude will be Saraband for the Morning of Easter by Herbert Howells (1892-1983) and the postlude will be Toccata from Symphonie V by Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa ‘Congratulamini mihi’ by Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599). It is a wonderful setting of the Mass, based on an Easter motet, and full of the joy of the day. The choir will also sing motets by Byrd and Morales. Robert McDermitt plays the organ recital at 4:30, featuring works of Marchand, Franck and Vierne, and at Solemn Paschal Evensong, the choir will sing Evening Service in C by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) and Widor’s Tantum ergo at Benediction.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . As we go to press, Christopher Kamm, a member of the parish who serves in the Marines, has been deployed to the Middle East. Please keep him especially in your prayers . . . Yes, there will be a reception after the Easter Vigil. Yes, there will be coffee hour after the 10:00 AM Mass on Easter Day. Yes, there will be coffee hour after the 11:00 AM Mass on Easter Day . . . Yes, there have been some extra clergy at the altar this week. The Reverend Louis Weil is with us for the Triduum – and is preaching at the 12:30 PM service on Good Friday. The Reverend Alexander Graham is a transitional deacon of the Diocese of Delaware and a senior at the General Theological Seminary. It’s been great to have him here to assist with the pontifical liturgies this week . . . And our seminarian, Ryan Lesh, is with us for the Triduum. Ryan is in his first year of study at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Berkeley, California . . . Many, many thanks to all who made Palm Sunday so wonderful – including the mounted police who escorted our procession through Times Square! . . . Attendance Palm Sunday 401.
The Calendar of the Week
The Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day
Monday in Easter Week
Tuesday in Easter Week
Wednesday in Easter Week
Thursday in Easter Week
Friday in Easter Week
Saturday in Easter Week
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend Matthew Weiler, curate, The Reverend James Ross Smith, assistant,
The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priest,
The Reverend John Beddingfield, The Reverend Robert Rhodes, assisting deacons,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.