The overriding sentiment which prevails at my house and in my heart each Easter Monday is the same. It is finished. The long 40 days of Lenten fasting, prayer and penance are completed. The late nights of the Triduum liturgies are over. Crumbs of the traditional Italian Easter bread and a handful of neon colored peeps are all that remain from Easter dinner. He is Risen indeed – so why does Easter Monday always get me down?
Pope Francis provides the antidote to my Easter Monday blues in his weekly audience which took place on Wednesday of Holy Week. The Holy Father highlights the “Easter Triduum of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ” as the “culmination of the Liturgical Year.” He goes on to describe each of the events of the Triduum, their significance, and the direction they provide for living an authentic Christian life – one lived in imitation of the Paschal Mystery. The Triduum is not merely a once a year reflection on events past. It does not end on Easter Monday, or even at the conclusion of the Easter season. Instead the Triduum is a mystery meant to be lived out every day, most perfectly in our participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
In his exposition of the Triduum, the Pope encourages the faithful to live out the virtues exemplified by our Lord Jesus – different virtues for each event, united under the overarching virtue par excellence – love. Pope Francis begins by reflecting on the washing of the feet on Holy Thursday saying:
“… the Gospel of this celebration expresses the same meaning of the Eucharist under another perspective. Jesus – as a servant – washes the feet of Simon Peter and the other eleven disciples (Cf. John 13:4-5). With this prophetic gesture, He expresses the meaning of his life and of his Passion, as service to God and to brothers: “For the Son of man has come not to be served but to serve” (Mark 10:45).”
The Pope explains that by virtue of our Baptism, we too are called to imitate “Christ the Servant.” We are not merely to be casual observers of Jesus’ act of washing the feet of the apostles – sitting back and nodding in approval. The Holy Father stresses instead that we are to examine our consciences with regard to Jesus’ gesture of humility, service and love – challenging us with the following:
“If we approach Holy Communion without being sincerely disposed to wash one another’s feet, we do not recognize the Body of the Lord. It is Jesus’ service, giving himself totally.”
In speaking about Good Friday, Pope Francis encourages us to imitate not only the total self-giving sacrifice of our Lord, but also to imitate those “men and women in the course of the centuries, who with the testimony of their life reflect a ray of this perfect, full, uncontaminated love.” The martyrs in particular, the Pope points out, “offer their life with Jesus to confess the faith” and in doing so provide a “service of Christian witness to the point of blood.”
The Holy Father highlights our Blessed Mother as the model of the virtue of hope – hope that continued even on the darkest of days – Holy Saturday. Father Raniero Cantalamessa, in reflections on our Lord’s passion, describes the intensity of Mary’s hope: “ she hoped in God when she saw the last human reason for hope disappear.” No other day in human history tempts the world to despair as much as the silence of Holy Saturday. The readings from the Liturgy of the Hours tell us: “The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh…” Mary’s witness to us encourages us to persevere in hope, even when we are experiencing our own dark days. Father Cantalamessa sums up what our response should be when darkness covers our corner of the earth: “When this hour arrives, remember Mary’s faith and pray , ‘Father, I no longer understand you, but I trust you!’”
Pope Francis concluded his audience by exhorting the church:
“…in these days of the Holy Triduum, let us not limit ourselves to commemorating the Lord’s Passion, but let us enter in the mystery, let us make his sentiments are own, his attitudes, as the Apostle Paul invites us to do: ”Have this mind among yourselves, which was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).”
There are no Monday morning blues on Easter Monday when we choose to truly “enter the mystery” that we have just concluded celebrating in the Triduum. Easter is not an end of the celebration but rather, a new beginning – another opportunity to imitate the Lord, to grow in virtue, to live the mystery.
Quotes from Father Cantalamessa are from “The Fire of Christ’s Love – Meditations on the Cross” Word on Fire Press