Easter Triduum at the Vatican

by Moritz Hendrik Hemsteg


According to ancient Christian practice Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil make up one single liturgy. The Latin Church calls this the Triduum Paschale – The Three Days of Easter. Pope Francis, who presided over all ceremonies except for Good Friday himself, remained faithful to his main concerns, love and humility.


Even for those who were only remotely interested in Vatican Issues, it was no surprise that the Holy Father chose a prison to celebrate the Last Supper and Washing of The Feet. His homily extensively focused on Jesus‘ love to his disciples.  Before washing the feet of the inmates himself, Francis remarked that the Lord’s love to His children is like the love of a mother: unconditional and perpetually self-giving. Francis knows that the gesture of the washing of the feet is very servile, he ultimately asked the celebrating assembly to pray for him to become “slavish” like Jesus was. The Pontiff takes the papal title “slave of the slaves of God” very seriously.

The house preacher of the Vatican, Fr Cantalamessa covered several current issues in his Good Friday homily. Emphasizing the ‘Ecce Homo’ image (Jn 19:5), he said there were many people who suffer unjustly on this planet. It is the Lord himself who suffers compassionately with those in need, exploitation, and torture. Due to the brutality and the closeness of the event, Father Cantalamessa recalled the 147 students’ deaths in Garissa, Kenya, who had been killed by Islamist terrorists the day before. After preaching on the Sermon on the Mount, Cantalamessa remarked that every claim of religious justification for killing people has become invalid. True martyrs would not die with clenched fists, but rather with folded hands–such as the 21 Coptic martyrs killed by ISIS. Nevertheless, he asked his Christian audience to find forgiveness in their hearts. It is very often the most difficult to forgive those who have harmed other people and our own kin. Ultimately, it is hope that makes Christians do this, the Capuchin said, hope in the already happened victory of Christ over death and evil.


Throughout the ceremony of Easter Vigil, the pope asked the assembly to be vigilant and watchful for the mystery to come. He reminded the audience once more what it means to be ‘humble mystics.’ “The true mystic,” he said, “is open-minded to the divine mystery. One should be aware of the possibility to not fully understand God’s revelation. We have to enter the tomb and be attentive what the risen Lord will tell us.” The final step of openness to the Easter mystery and the calling of the risen Lord, the pope made clear, would require humility more than reason.


Pope Francis addressed the audience at St Peter’s Square on the following day during the Ubri et Orbi prayer. He recalled humiliation a last time. On the morning of Easter, the disciples went to the grave, and bowed down to enter the grave. The Holy Father expects the faithful disciple searching for God and the next one to do the same, as he had unmistakably made to understand on Holy Thursday. Francis asked the community of Christians to be like Jesus, to humble themselves and serve the neighbor in need. “This is not weakness, but strength, since the one who is following Jesus in his mind and actions, is full of the love and confidence of the Almighty,” the Pontiff remarked. Pope Francis asked for peace and exhaustively mentioned those places in the world where ongoing riots and wars destroy social bonds. Then he gave his apostolic blessing urbi et orbi, to the city and the world.



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