Today is called Palm Sunday because we hear the story of how Jesus once came into the holy city, Jerusalem, riding over a carpet of branches, cheered by people welcoming him and waving branches. Today is also known as Passion Sunday because the Gospel story read today is always the long account of Jesus’ Passion as told by the Evangelists.
Today marks the beginning of the days we call Holy Week. From today until Thursday night it is still Lent. The Forty Days right now are down to their last five days If we have kept these days so far with various kinds of fasting, various forms of almsgiving, and times of prayer each day, then we are near the end and can perhaps put on an extra burst of energy and so finish this great Lenten contest smiling and exuberant to have done penance and turned the world a bit upside-down. And if we have not kept the Lenten promises we made, there are still 5 days to go! It is not too late at all. Time remains for that spring-cleaning of heart. Time remains also for quiet, prayerful reflection on today’s passion of Christ. Time remains. Five days of Lent conclude your Forty Days, or Five Days can be your Forty Days. But that brings us only to Thursday evening. For when Lent ends, we move without stopping for breath into the three days that are for us the heart and soul of the entire year. The church calls them a “triduum,” from the Latin meaning “three days.”
On Thursday night we walk out of Lent into these three holiest days, walk into them singing: “We should glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And there it is, in one part of one sentence from Paul” Our glory is in the cross. The cross is our glory. Somehow that is what it comes to for us, the transforming cross that never ceases to be the cross, the death that is death itself, and all the ways death reigns in this poor world, but we look at it and we say, “Glory.”
From Thursday night until Sunday afternoon, it is this Triduum. We will gather here Thursday night and Friday afternoon and then in the darkness of Saturday night. These are the liturgies we do not celebrate three or four times each day. We do it once and we hope that all of us can be together, most especially at the Easter Vigil. That gathering of the church between Saturday evening and Sunday morning is the life that nourishes our whole year, all our days. It is when we come to spend some good time in the reading of scripture, and then go finally to the baptismal font where our catechumen, Glen Harper and his daughter Rachel, will be baptised after being challenged to renounce evil, to believe in Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and so to die in the waters of Baptism and live forever in Christ. We do these Liturgies only once because we wish that this whole parish be, this onetime in the year, all together here to hear Scripture and witness Baptism and partake together, of the Eucharist. We have to know this: The way these three days are kept is not only with the liturgies here in this assembly at the church. For these to have any sense at all to them, the three days have to be kept in our lives. The church invites us to keep the paschal fast sacred and to celebrate it from Holy Thursday all the way until Easter Sunday. This is, then, not a Lenten fast anymore, but an Easter celebratory fast. What is that? It is a fasting of excitement and expectation, of butterflies in the stomach because of what is about to happen: Jesus will be crucified after leaving us the gift of the Eucharist, but then the gory of the resurrection will happen. The celebratory fast is clearing the mind and the heart to enter fully into the paschal mystery along with Jesus and each other. So the invitation to us is to leave all we can of the normal on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Off and on through these next days, we will meet here. You have your schedules of liturgies and other times of prayer. But it is the times between the liturgies that make the liturgies possible. Let all of us together find again and anew what is this glory that is ours in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ?