Lent, The Triduum, and Other Strange Words for Otherwise Good Ideas
There are some things I’m really hoping you’ve figured out by this point in your life: 1) The Chicago Cubs winning the World Series is not to be taken for granted; 2) Cheez Whiz and Easy Cheese are not the same thing but, you know, whatever; and 3) There are many, many expressions of the Christian faith (and others, too, but I’m not writing about those).
Because many, if not most (okay, let’s be real: almost all) Christian denominations were born when a critical mass of people (pun absolutely intended) got fed up with something or another they didn’t like. Generations of Christians have been conditioned to extol the virtues of their own expression of the faith while telling you precisely why every other church sucks. This is practically a sport for some people, rather like the English dissing the French or Hoosiers trash-talking Kentuckians any time we get the chance.
When knowing and loving and serving God is the subject at hand, however, the trash talk can get a bit serious. Disagreements over matters of ultimate concern seem to make people really cranky. It isn’t that our explorations about the nature of God and our relationships with Humanity and Creation are unimportant – on the contrary – but when we allow ourselves to be defined by differences rather than by the life and love we have in Jesus Christ, we’ve missed a major point somewhere.
There are hopeful signs among some notable Christian thinkers that we are beginning at long last to dismount from our spiritual high horses in order to offer and receive the gifts of each Christian tradition at the Lord’s table. As it happens, LOG is a trend-setter in this work; celebrating the things we hold in common as Christians is one of LOG’s core values which, I believe, is a clear manifestation of God’s agapé love. And just in case you are wondering, the Greek word for love of Cheez Whiz would be protimisi, which means preference, because – seriously – if you love Cheese Whiz, you need help.
One seemingly simple but rather profound difference among Christian traditions is the way we mark time. In some traditions, ideas like this is Psalm 118:24: “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it,” call the faithful to receive each day as a gift from God, with one day not to be celebrated more than another. Other traditions mark special occasions as appointed in the Bible, but downplay celebrations that either have origins in earth religions or have become secularized. And still other traditions – mine included (Episcopalian) – use a calendar of religious observance to walk with Jesus along a set of particular waymarks in his life and ministry each year.
The church calendar begins with the season of Advent on the Sunday closest to November 30 and follows one of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) each year, with John’s Gospel inserted at various points over a three year cycle. Each season – Advent, Christmas, the Season after the Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and the Season after Pentecost – not only draws us into the story of Jesus, but also carries certain devotional traditions that have developed at various times and places throughout the history of the Church.
The season we are in currently is called Lent, which comes from an Old English word meaning spring season. It is related to the word length, as in, “the lengthening of days.” (See what they did there?) Lent is a forty day season (minus Sundays) leading up to Easter, its length determined by the number of days Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by Satan before beginning his earthly ministry, which is always the Gospel reading on the First Sunday in Lent. Backing up one week, the Gospel reading on the Sunday before Lent begins is always the Transfiguration – Jesus going up on the mountain with James and John and appearing in glory before them along with Moses and Elijah. From that point on in the synoptic Gospels (the Transfiguration doesn’t appear in John), Jesus “turns his face towards Jerusalem.”
This idea defines both the mood and the trajectory of Lent: Along with the rest of the disciples, we’re heading with Jesus to Jerusalem and what awaits him there. It is a solemn journey, upon which the Church throughout history has prepared candidates for baptism, restored those who had fallen away from the faith, and encouraged the faithful to renew their commitment to Christ through various spiritual practices, namely prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. The modern starter version of these Lenten disciplines is the practice of giving up something for Lent. The idea is to set aside something that has become an obstacle to one’s walk with Christ AND/OR to take on something that helps in one’s walk with Christ in hopes of knowing and sharing God’s love more fully along the way. Unfortunately, without context, the practice of giving something up for Lent often becomes merely a forty day test of one’s willpower that ends with chocolate binging on Easter Sunday. It’s an impressive enough feat, but as for drawing one closer to Christ, not so much. And all of those poor chocolate bunnies! Hare today, gone tomorrow.
Lent culminates with the Sacred Three Days, called the Triduum (TRID-you-um), which is Latin for – are you ready to be dazzled? – three days. Our forebears in the faith were not exactly marketing geniuses. These three days – beginning on the evening of Maundy* Thursday and continuing through Good Friday and Holy Saturday – draw us fully into the story of Jesus’ Last Supper, Arrest, Trial, Crucifixion, and death (known collectively as The Passion) before we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection at Easter. The Triduum is critical for us as Christians, we believe, because the fullness of God’s love for us is seen most clearly in the Passion; in Jesus’ offering of his life on the cross. The cross is an icon or a sacrament of God’s love, which is sacrificial, self-emptying, and complete. That is the love we seek to enter into and imitate as the people of God.
So at this point a few minutes further into your life, I hope you know these things: 1) Lent is a Gospel-based journey with Jesus from the mount of the Transfiguration to Jerusalem where his passion and death await; 2) Lent is a time of discipline and spiritual exercise that prepares us to go to the foot of the cross where we will begin to understand the magnitude of God’s love for us; and 3) Lent is a time of healing and restoration that allows us to share fully in the joy of the resurrection from the dead and the assurance of God’s life-giving love at Easter. Oh, and 4) Jesus’ lesser-known second miracle may have been at a house warming party in northern Galilee where he turned Cheez Whiz into cottage cheese with some Kurds. Or not.
To God be the glory, now and forever.
Brian Grantz (aka Fri-Bri), LOG #56
* Maundy is a contraction of the Latin word mandatum, meaning commandment. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12 ff) is the Gospel reading appointed for Maundy Thursday.
A short P.S. from Terry
Maundy Thursday and Good Friday and the celebration of the Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday – this is Holy Week. I hope you all will attend one or more of the special services this week! If you are not sure where to go or who to go with, get in touch with me and I’ll get you hooked up.
Also – please consider joining us as we go down to Bashor on Good Friday. See details below.
Good Friday at Bashor Home – no egg hunt this year
Friday, April 14
Leave South Bend at 3:30pm – return about 10pm
Dinner followed by a Good Friday worship time and watching the motion picture RISEN.
Intermission will include a 40″ Ice Cream Sundae
Check out the Facebook event or contact Terry to be sure we have enough transportation
Agape – A Taste of LOG – Share LOG with your family!
Sunday, April 23
Firehouse campus of Clay Church
17646 Cleveland Road, SB
This will be a fun evening of sharing a little bit of the LOG experience with your parents and other significant adults (think youth pastor, youth group leaders, grandparents etc). Please do not spoil the surprise for other teenagers that might be able to attend a future LOG weekend! Bring a bandana if you think your mom won’t keep her eyes closed …
The Next Season of LOG – team sign ups are open now
LOG # 92 at Bashor Home – June 23-25
Team meetings on Tuesday evenings in May & June
CoLeaders: Kim Archer and Meghan Russell
SOS (Summer Of Service) at Bethel College – June 29 – July 2
Team meetings on Monday evenings (note change of day) in May & June
CoLeaders: Erin Pinter and Ricardo Carbajal-Diaz
Sign up at www.michianayouth.org/team
Want to invite someone to go to church with you?
We would like to feature a few local churches for LOGgers that do not have a home church. Would you be willing to write a paragraph about why you like your church and invite people to contact you about attending with you one week? Be sure to mention where your church is located and what time you attend. Please contact Molly (email@example.com or Facebook) or Terry (firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook) soon!
Important dates – mark your calendars:
– May 20-21 – – SOAR (Seniors On A Rise)
– June 10 – – Sneak Peek at Bashor
– June 17 – – Nelson’s Chicken Fundraiser
– June 23-25 – – LOG #92 at Bashor Home
– June 29 – July 2 – – SOS at Bethel College
– July 22 – – 20 Year LOG Reunion
Check out the LOG Photo Page for photos from all three weekend that might have been better left unpublished …
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