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The Triduum at Christ Church of the Ascension

Gary and Janet* are a strange couple. They met in junior high during a first day of school event in a city on the East Coast. They knew each other for decades, but it was only when they were trapped in an elevator together for two days during a power outage that they fell for each other. They hadn’t spoken for years before that, and only happened to run into each other in the building where she worked as he was delivering a court summons. 

Every year while other couples talk about when they met or when they got married, Gary and Janet celebrate being locked in an elevator together in Jersey. That is the day that matters to them. 

For us it is three days of tragedy, injustice, and a stolen festival. The stolen festival is Passover. 

That is where our celebration begins. Jesus and the disciples gathered for a Passover meal in an upper room, where Jesus washed their feet and broke bread with them in the gathering political and religious storm that would soon break with his arrest and trials. It would end with his crucifixion and burial. But, of course, that is not where our story ends.

These three days, measured in the Jewish way from sundown to sundown, are at the heart of our faith. They are when the logic of Jesus’ way is taken to its logical conclusion, when God’s heart is revealed, and when our new reality of grace begins.

We celebrate them in a single worship service in several parts. The service begins with Maundy Thursday with foot washing and breaking bread and the stripping of the altar and then pauses in silence for a night. On Good Friday the service resumes for part two, picking up at his trials and crucifixion, and we bow before the cross before withdrawing for another night and day of rest. Holy Saturday’s morning prayer marks the strange time of waiting that culminates in the surprising cry of the Vigil, when we light the new fire, tell the story of salvation from the beginning and then celebrate the new light of Christ bursting from the tomb. That celebration takes us into Easter Day when we rejoice with full voices and full hearts for the tragedy and injustice of the world is turned to joy and grace before the mighty power of God to forgive and make new.

This year is a strange year. We would not be caught dead on an elevator with someone we barely knew! Gathering for our usual celebrations are out, so we are all having to get creative. 

Below you will find guidance for the services ahead. Join us, as you are able, in these new ways of marking deep truths and embodying the story of our salvation. 

When Janet and Gary* told me the story of their relationship standing around at a party years ago, I could scarcely believe the strange twists and turns. We laughed and wondered at the synchronicity of it. They discovered an unexpected love in a strange moment. 

We can relate. Let us discover God’s unexpected grace again in this strange moment together. 

*Not their real names

The Rev. Daniel P. Richards

Christ Church of the Ascension 

Paradise Valley, Arizona