The Grace of the Triduum in a Pandemic

Today is Holy Thursday, the beginning of the Easter Triduum. But it might not feel like it to you. If you’ve been sheltering in place for weeks you may not even know what day of the week it is, and with no public Masses this Triduum is going to look very different than years past. So how can we enter into this most holy time when we can’t even attend the liturgies at our parish?

Msgr. James Shea, president of the University of Mary, stopped by The Drew Mariani Show™ this week to discuss this most unusual Triduum, and the graces that can come from this unique experience of Easter.

Msgr. Shea pointed out that we are blessed to live in a time when we have access to Mass and preaching digitally, even when our churches are closed. But it’s OK to acknowledge that it’s not the same as being at your parish and physically receiving the Eucharist.

“I think, for instance, the live stream of the Daily Mass that Relevant Radio® is doing at noon every day is just giving people tremendous, tremendous consolation,” he said. “I know Father Rocky’s doing a retreat this week, and I hang on his every word. And so I think that there are lots of opportunities to connect digitally. But I think we just have to admit what’s obvious – that it’s not going to be the same.”

Msgr. Shea recognized the heartache that many are feeling at being unable to gather to celebrate the Triduum. Offering his perspective as a priest, he said, “It tears out our hearts to not have the people present, to not be able to look out at all of you, and to be there with you. It’s just a devastation for us, because we weren’t ordained for ourselves. We’re ordained for you, for the people of God. And so it’s hard for the priests. Of course it’s harder, in a particular way, for the people who are distant from the sacraments. And so I think that first we need to just be grownups and admit that there’s a devastating distance and disappointment.”

But Easter reminds us that the Lord can bring good out of a devastating situation. And so rather than simply feeling disappointed, we can look for the ways in which we can use this opportunity to grow in our faith life.

“God never allows something like this to happen without intending to fortify us in some great way,” Msgr. Shea encouraged. “And so this is a chance for us. It’s a chance for us to unite ourselves mystically and spiritually, with all our brothers and sisters through the history of the Church, who for various reasons, have been separated from the sacraments. [Those who] have been unable to experience the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist because they weren’t priests, or because they were in prison, or because there was some great persecution that was happening.”

This is a time of darkness, uncertainty, and anxiety for many. But it is also an opportunity to recognize our weakness and practice trusting in the Lord.

Msgr. Shea reminded listeners, “This is not unprecedented that human beings would be in situations of trouble. It’s not unprecedented that society and individual lives would be thrown into chaos, and inconvenience, and even danger. When people say that this is unprecedented, it is in a certain sense, because of the circumstances. But on the other hand, I’d say that it’s something that we’ve been through before and we can be stronger as a result.”

During the Triduum we remember the final days of Christ’s life on earth and celebrate his glorious Resurrection. We remember how our loving God took on human flesh and experienced darkness, devastation, and even death for our sake. But darkness did not have the last word. Experiencing the Triduum in a pandemic is a reminder that the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.

“Christianity was made for times like this,” said Msgr. Shea. “We have a faith that was formulated for the salvation of a suffering people. People who were in need of salvation, not people who were warm, well-fed, wealthy, and comfortable, but people who were bewildered and in pain.”

“Our faith was made for times like this. If we exercise that faith, the faith begins to shine and we begin to shine. That’s how we’re meant to live in the world as believers and disciples.”

Listen to the full conversation below:

The Drew Mariani Show airs weekdays from 2:00 – 5:00 p.m. Central on Relevant Radio and the Relevant Radio App.