Today we begin the Holy Triduum, the three-day liturgy, the highest celebration of the church. It is an exhausting enterprise, with waiting, silence, fasting, lots of lines and processions and standing and kneeling. To appreciate it requires both attention and faith. It requires that we “stay awake.”
By “staying awake,” I mean remaining aware of the immense meaning of this celebration. Its riches include Christ dying your death for you and the harsh and honest light of his reproaches. But it begins tonight with what he did “on the day before he was to suffer … that is today.” It begins with the Last Supper.
On that day—today—Christ offered us his body and blood. Tonight, as through the year, we are able to receive him into ourselves. I wish to tell you here that this is what it takes to stay awake. The Bread of Life is also the Bread of Waking and the Bread of Meaning. Jesus himself, whom we receive, is the revelation of the Father’s love for us.
It is a great challenge for us to hold our head above the clouds, to gaze in the slightest way upon these mysteries of love that we are celebrating. We easily tire and become impatient for this Mass, this fasting, this waiting to be over. But then we have fallen asleep.
And yet, Christ pulls us from our slumber, where our consciences are silenced by our stubborn deafness. He jolts us from our fitful dreams, where we are the kings of the kingdom. “Awake, o sleeper!” he cries, for he knows what he offers to us, and he does not wish for us to miss it on account of bleary eyes.
Every day, and every hour, this cry is with us, and it remains in our ears even though we do not hearken to it. This Holy Triduum, this three-day liturgy, is the time above all others to wake up, strengthen your knees, and open wide your eyes. Ask Jesus in this Blessed Sacrament that you might see the meaning of the mystery, that you might stay awake. He knows that you cannot do it alone. Ask him, and he will raise you up.
Image: Hendrick ter Brugghen, Mars Asleep