Fawlty Powers: Don't Mention the Triduum
...approach the Triduum not as three or four individual problems to be solved ... See these
days as one moment ... '
JThe (fictional!) Parish of St Withburga begins preparations for the three days of Easter with a meeting of the liturgy team.
Among the participants:
'I hope we think up some good ideas for Easter!' chimed Deirdre Pullon. Joe Hannibal quivered. He had agreed to chair the liturgy team for the Easter ceremonies. He knew Fr Nigel would be delayed but began proceedings because he wanted to be home to watch The Bill at 8.30. Hannibal was a good lector but found meetings tiresome.
'Let's look at the Mass of the Lord's Supper,' Joe continued, 'the first of the three days on the Agenda.'
'Well it's about washing feet really.' chirped Deirdre.
'Let's do something dazzling.' Joe gave an inward groan. He was not an ideas person; he just wanted everything organised.
Joy Senior had an instant thought: 'Last Holy Week, the school acted out the washing-of-the-feet gospel in their prayer gathering. My granddaughters were in it and Fr Nigel played Jesus. The children dressed up - it was just
like the Last Supper. Everyone said it was lovely. Why don't we do the same?'
This was indeed a new idea which caught the imagination of a few present 'We could include the children.'
'Yes, their parents might come for a change, numbers were down last year.'
'We could put names on the chairs'
'They could wear severs' albs - we could find 12.'
'Hold it!' said "Joe. 'We have a serious problem. I know from my experience as a lector Father will not be able to wash feet and read the gospel at the same time.'
Lola Booker burst through the door dropping her books. 'Father's just pulled up. Sorry, had to feed the kids but managed to escape,' she puffed. She stooped to pick up her things, backing into Fr Nigel's kneecaps.
'Hello Lola, hello Father,' they chorused. Melody Wagner and Vinny Minore moved their chairs as Fr Nigel rubbed his knees.
Joe explained the idea and the dilemma to the latecomers.
Joy declared, 'Father, you will have to choose what we are to do.'
Now poor Fr Nigel was secretly uneasy with his school experience but had gone along with the request. 'Let's look at the Missal before we go any further, ' he suggested.
Melody, sensing Father's hesitancy, spoke up. 'You know, we only do this once a year. For me it's a very powerful rite even though I'm busy playing music and keeping the choir in tune.'
'Let's see,' Father continued. 'Depending on pastoral circumstances, the washing of feet follows the homily. The people who have been chosen are led by the ministers to chairs prepared in a suitable place.' There was a general groan. 'It appears that it is a separate rite. We need to be mindful that a ritual is different to a play.'
'But it is so hard to find willing men, Father,' Joy replied.
'May I offer something?' Hong Tan asked quietly. Everyone nodded encouragingly. 'I remember when we were away, we went to a church where they washed people's hands - men, women and children. It was very moving but it did take a while.'
'Now that's a good idea,' said Deirdre Fullon. 'Personally I think it would be embarrassing to have to take off my stockings. I thought that's why they asked men.'
'In my last parish I went to some liturgy workshops,' Lola Booker reflected. 'I remember hearing that liturgy is not mimicry but something much more symbolic. The separate rite makes this clearer. To be honest, I think that washing people's hands is different to washing people's feet. There is something very humbling about washing feet.'
'Yes, especially if they are a bit on the nose,' someone sniggered.
'Okay, okay,' Joe said quickly. 'It appears that we will wash feet in the normal way after the homily. What comes next?'
'Wait a moment,' Deirdre Fullon interrupted. 'How and where do we do this?'
'Have we actually read the readings yet?' inquired Fr NigeI.
'I've downloaded them but, no, we forgot to look at them,' replied Joe. Quietness descended as they read and pondered.
Vinny came to life: 'You know, I think that for me, working in the soup kitchen is about washing the feet of others.'
Fr Nigel was warmed by Vinny's insight. 'The Eucharist leads us to service. The washing of the feet on this night celebrates not only what Christ did at the Supper but also what we, the Church, are called to do now.' There was a hush.
Vinny was on a roll: 'Then we should see men and women of all ages and cultures, refugees, unemployed - people from all corners of our community - participating fully in this ritual for aren't we all called to serve?'
Joe looked at his watch. If it takes this much time to talk about washing feet, he thought, we'll be here until 3 am.
'In light of this, I suggest we form a sub-committee to report back to the next meeting. Any volunteers?' Vinny, Melody and Lola put up their hands.
'Let's look at how the washing of the feet fits in with the Eucharist,' Lola said thoughtfully. 'I have this book here called The Three Days by Gabe Huck.' She opened it. 'On page 3 it says, Approach the Triduum not as three or four individual problems to be solved .. See these days as one moment ... '
'Approach the what?' Deirdre Pullon asked.
'The Triduum,' Lola replied. '1 think it's a Latin word meaning the space or time of three days. It is spelt with two U-s.'
Joe jumped in: 'That's settled then. The next item is Good Friday.'
'What about acting out the gospel on Good Friday?' Joy asked hopefully.
'Do you know how long the gospel is on Good Friday?' exclaimed Joe. Lola rolled her eyes. Melody sighed.
'Have you downloaded copies, Joe?' asked Vinny.
'Yes,' mused Fr Nigel, 'the scriptures are a good place to start.' As they distributed the sheets he turned to Good
Friday in the Lectionary and quickly glanced down the page.