From the Pastor: Our first Traditional Easter Triduum
We celebrated the Easter Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday) in the Traditional Latin Rite this year. It is the first time I have had this grand experience and it may be the first time in five decades that it has been done at a parish in our diocese. We also had a visiting priest (Fr. Vincent, SJ) taking it all in! Although it took a lot of work by a lot of people, it was all worth it! The choir, the altar boys, and the MC’s had to be fully versed in who does what, when, where and why for all three days. Of course, there was also the “invisible” work done in cleaning and sprucing up the church and grounds in the earlier days of Holy Week. Thank you all for all you sacrificed to bring this to our parish!
Everybody, including the other priests, kept asking, “How long will it (the Mass, the prayers, the service, etc.) take?” I kept driving everyone crazy with the only honest answer I had: “I don’t know!” I could tell how long an Easter Vigil Mass was in other parishes where I had celebrated it (usually about 3 hours long) but almost everything is longer in the old Latin Rite. How much longer, though, I could not say. Part of the problem is my lack of full proficiency in Latin chant. OK, that’s an enormous understatement. The only “formal” training in Latin chant I have ever had was a weekend chant seminar I attended five or six years ago. We were introduced to various Mass chants but it was very, very basic. Not nearly enough to prepare me to chant the Passion in three voices or the Exsultet. So while choir members chanted those (except for the part of Our Lord, which I chanted aloud), I chanted them “silently” as I do the Gloria and Creed at Sunday Mass while the choir chants what you hear. Not a perfect solution, but the best I could do the first time around. I did manage to chant the Passion in the ferial tone in three voices for one daily Mass, though, so it’s a start.
The Easter Vigil in the traditional Rite is a bit different than in the Novus Ordo. The Vigil Service and the Mass, for instance, are separate from one another, with the blessing of fire, candle procession, the the extra readings (chanted by yours truly, no less!) and the bestowal of the sacraments of initiation all done as part of a “Vigil Service” before the Mass begins. During the Vigil, there were such “oddities” as me needing to change vestments and colors several times, from violet cope to white dalmatic (a Deacon’s outer vestment) back to violet and back to white. I did wind up wearing violet once when I should have changed to white and one day someone will use the photos for some sort of liturgical blackmail when they discover the gaff! After the Vigil was complete, all of the altar boys and clergy left the church (without any blessing, chanting, or gestures of any sort) and went to the sacristy to prepare for Mass. I neglected to have anyone announce what we were doing, so anyone who wasn’t paying close attention to the missal might have thought we were done. But it was a good time for a potty break or stretch for those who were in the know. I had guessed that it might take as much as 5 hours to complete but it only took 3 1/2. Of course, we only had one person receiving the sacraments of initiation, so if there were more it would have taken more time. Plus, I didn’t see where a sermon could improve on the liturgy itself, so that cut out a sizable chunk of time, too!
The only service for which I underestimated time was the Good Friday morning Tenebrae prayer. It took 2 1/2 hours. Prayerful hours, though, and quite exquisite. I immediately had requests that the choir do all three Tenebrae services next Triduum! The Good Friday Veneration of the Cross and Communion service wasn’t much different than the new rite except that it was all prayed in Latin. The the traditional blessing of the Easter baskets, to which I was introduced several years ago by some good Polish parishioners, was short and sweet as always, though I did find the “official” Latin prayers for blessing of Easter Food in the old Roman Ritual, so it was even more “traditional” than ever this year. Speaking of which, somebody dropped off a basket for me which contained the smokiest, most unusual kielbasa I have ever eaten (after Easter, when the fast was broken, of course!). I don’t know who brought it but it was incredible! And once again I have sadly run out of room.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka