Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Triduum "Outside the Book"

Feeling sad today, especially after yesterday's post.

A friend of mine asked me to post a question concerning celebrations of the Triduum in parishes. He recounted something that occurred at his parish during Saturday's Easter Vigil. As the pastor began the homily, his focus was on the word "alleluia" and the joy it expresses as it acclaims the resurrected Lord. He told the congregation that it was important for them to share the joy of the resurrection with everyone. He then invited everyone in the congregation to follow him outside to the area in the front of the church. He led everyone outside and, once there, asked them to join him in proclaiming "alleluia" to the north, then to the south, then east, then west. Everyone did as he asked and the neighborhood resounded with these "alleluia's." My friend, a committed Catholic who knows the liturgy well, thought it was "kind of strange at first." But then he said that it was quite powerful and was filled with meaning for the folks from that Chicago neighborhood who had gathered for the Vigil. "It was really kinda cool," he said. After the proclamation, everyone then followed the pastor back into the church. The pastor concluded the homily and the liturgy continued with the celebration of baptism.

My friend wondered if there were things "outside the book" that take place, or have taken place year after year in parishes during the Triduum. I thought immediately of my experience at Saint James, my former parish where, at the veneration of the cross on Good Friday, the members of the congregation remove their shoes and socks before approaching the cross. And then I thought of the Vigil at Saint Clement that I experienced on Saturday and the creative pronouncements during the blessing of the candle, which I described in yesterday's post.

So, my question to you is this: Is there a custom that has developed in your parish during the Triduum that is "outside the book?" Does it make you fidget in discomfort when it occurs? Is it "kinda cool?" Is it something that is laden with deep meaning? Please feel free to share.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Jennifer said...

One year I subbed at a parish in the city which did its Vigil in the middle of the night, timing it so that the Gloria would hit somewhere right about sunrise. (That year it rained, so I have no idea if we pulled it off, there wasn't much of a sunrise. But no "how early can we start and have it still 'count' " at this place!) I was incredibly touched by the attention to the symbols there, in this small parish's small way...the bonfire was outside, and the entire congregation (maybe 35 people) began outside as well, taking all the time it took to get the candle lit from the carefully-tended-from-the-damp fire. When we entered the church in procession, it looked and felt like no one had been in there since Good Friday afternoon; dark and damp and tomb-like. I sang the Exultet by the light of several people's candles huddled around me...it was completely without any of the "fancy" touches that go with a lot of Triduua I've attended, but it was so focused and so lovely. When you've stood in the dark and cold for an hour, MAN the light and warmth when it comes feel wonderful...

Later, telling this story, someone rose up incensed that there is no provision for doing the Vigil in the middle of the night, that it wasn't "by the book." I honestly didn't care, and at the time I was a VERY by the book liturgy-person. The experience sort of changed the way I think of the "book."

Christian Cosas said...

It's not something that's developed into a custom, but one of my most memorable experiences on Good Friday was when a tornado siren went off towards the end of the gospel. We did a bit of improvising with the rite.

We moved everyone into the school halls, and after sitting nervously for about fifteen minutes, the presider said to me, "Let's do the veneration here."

"How?" I replied. "The halls are too narrow to form a line to the cross."

"We'll bring the cross to them."

So, to quiet down the chatter, I started at one end of the hall and started walking down, chanting Nick Palmer's "Adoramus Te, Christe" ostinato to get everybody back into prayer mode. The choir picked up on my cue and sang the SATB parts, and soon the voices of the entire assembly was reverberating through the halls.

We kept the songs to simple ostinatos like "Jesus, Remember Me" and "Crucem Tuam" as the servers, deacon, and priest brought the cross through the school.

We then went into the Solemn Intercessions, which the priest and deacon sang in a central part of the halls.

Even though the elements were out of order, there was something very organic about using the Veneration of the Cross ritual to focus the assembly after the disruption and chaos. Leading into the Solemn Intercessions just felt right, and the assembly's "Amen" after each one was awesome.

After the intercessions, we got the all-clear to move back into the church, and the service proceeded as usual with a collection for the Holy Land and then communion.

I've got video clips of the service from my mobile phone sitting on a hard drive somewhere. I should post them to YouTube if I can find them.

Brent McWilliams said...


We weren't too outside the book, but wanted to let you know RCIA is alive and well at Prince of Peace, Plano. We baptized 18 adults and children and another 20 made their profession of faith. We used Anthony Ruff's setting of the chanted Gospel for three voices and was really intriguing to hear it sung in that style. One of my choir members informed me that the liturgy time was 2'57'42. Her husband runs marathons, so she thought it appropriate to time this "marathon" as well. Happy Paschal.

Mary said...

The wonderful thing about Catholic Tradition is that it grows. I get inspired when these practices take root and inspire communities to pray and worship from the heart. The unfortunate thing I see more often lately is the majority of the parish doesn't remember or understand the services of the Triduum. This makes for a sense of awkwardness when we don't connect.

Mary said...

In a previous parish, on Thursday night as well as symbolically washing some feet, we also washed everyone's hands.

And during the intercessions on Friday, we processed up a symbol of the prayer being read.

Frederick (Fritz) Bauerschmidt said...

For several years we have combined the two readings from Isaiah and had them interspersed with parts of "Come to the Water" and "Seek the Lord," sung by a couple in our parish, accompanied by guitar, which also plays softly in the background through part of the reading. At least to me it sounds pretty hokey when I describe it, but it is quite moving in practice (and clearly "outside the book").