Liturgy Matters: The Passion of the Lord

Clarifications and ponderings

Last Saturday February 25, more than 40 people gathered for the Triduum Take 3 Workshop, which focused on The Passion of the Lord on Good Friday.

After reflecting on the understanding of ‘what we are celebrating’, and the principles that guide our celebration, we considered ‘how we celebrate’ the Passion by focusing on some key questions. Each question was considered using the following process:  

  1. What liturgical principles – general and relating to the Triduum – inform our discernment?
  2. Does the ritual and relevant documents have something to say about this?
  3. What pastoral principles and issues inform our discernment?
  4. What wisdom, suggestions or questions does your experience offer us?

Our discussions revolved around the following questions.

Question 1: Who presides at the Passion of the Lord, the second moment of the Triduum.

The succinct answer to this question is the priest. This answer is found in the Missal, the document Paschale Solemnitatis [PS] (Circular Letter Concerning the preparation and Celebration of the Easter Feasts) and consequently the Ordo which states on p. 56:

To make clear the unity of the Easter Triduum, the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday is celebrated by the priest who leads the assembly on Holy Thursday and the Easter Vigil. Where this is not possible, a deacon or lay person may lead the community in parts of the Liturgy of the Hours (i.e. Morning, Evening or Night Prayer), or an appropriate devotion such as the Seven Last Words or the Stations of the Cross.

Nothing in the ritual or the documents indicates that a deacon or lay person may preside at the Passion of the Lord.

The Bishop’s Commission for Liturgy will be sending a letter to all dioceses clarifying this for the Australian Church, effective from 2020. To reinforce this the Ordo for 2020 will state:

To make clear the unity of the Easter Triduum, the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday is presided over only by a priest. This liturgy, by its very nature, cannot be celebrated in the absence of a priest. Where this is not possible, a deacon or lay person may lead the community in parts of the Liturgy of the Hours (i.e. Morning, Evening or Night Prayer) or an appropriate devotion such as the Seven Last Words or the Stations of the Cross.  

The point of our workshop was to provide communities with all the information they need to address this issue if necessary before next year, or indeed this year if possible.

Question 2: When and where ought the Triduum be celebrated?

Our discernment about this question is informed by the principles: The Triduum, and therefore The Passion of the Lord, are only celebrated if a community has all the resources necessary for it to be celebrated with the required dignity and solemnity. [PS a. 5, 41, 43, Missal a. 2-3]

Indeed Paschale Solemnitatis suggests that smaller communities come together for the Triduum. Separating out into smaller communities is not mentioned in the documents.

This coming together happens in many of our communities, such as in the Chisholm Region. Of course, this requires a level of collaboration and hospitality in the preparation and celebration of the liturgy. Liturgical ministers ought to be drawn from all the communities who join together. The host community would bend over backwards to ensure those from neighbouring communities felt truly welcome and ‘at home’.

Our recommendation at the workshop was that those communities who do not have the resources to celebrate the Triduum and/or those who join a larger community focus on the preparation and celebration of Easter Sunday Mass. There was general agreement that this has become the most crowded Easter liturgy.  

Question 3:  Is it appropriate to schedule more than one Passion of the Lord within a community? Or in other words, is it appropriate for a community to celebrate only one part of the Triduum?

Here again, the principles provide the key insights that inform our discernment: The Triduum is ONE liturgy, with ONE presider, celebrated by ONE church, where church is understood as the community not the building, [PS a. 43] AND, the Triduum celebrates the whole Paschal Mystery. [PS a. 1, 2, 27, 38, ritual a. 1] A community does not celebrate part of the Paschal Mystery in isolation from the whole. Death emerges from Holy Thursday and moves to resurrection.

Conversation suggested that for a range of reasons, some find this notion of the Triduum being one liturgy with three moments difficult to grasp. However this is the wisdom with which we need to engage and wrestle.

The main pastoral issue that was raised concerned the crowds on Good Friday. Will people fit if there is only one ‘Passion of the Lord’?  Hopefully where communities who may move between multiple church buildings for the Triduum, for example Blackbutt North and Blackbutt South, the crowds would fit into their largest building for ‘The Passion of the Lord’ so that the community to stay together.

Question 4: Are there circumstances in which it would be appropriate for a community to celebrate some form of devotion as an alternative to The Passion of the Lord and if so, what options are there?

Again, we focused on the principles to guide our reflection: The Passion of the Lord is the primary celebration of good Friday and takes priority over devotions. (PS a. 3, 72)   

This question is not about the Stations of the Cross or Morning Prayer on Good Friday morning. These are additional to, not alternatives for ‘The Passion of the Lord.  

The only circumstance in which an alternative to the Passion would be appropriate is in a community that is not celebrating the Triduum and is only celebrating Easter Sunday Mass. In this circumstance, communities might mark Good Friday with Morning and/or Evening Prayer, the Stations of the Cross that could include some form of veneration of the cross at the appropriate station, or the Seven Last Words’. The latter two options could be celebrated at 3.00pm because they would not be competing with The Passion of the Lord.

There is much to ponder. As we discussed on Saturday, our aim is always to improve our liturgical celebration of the Triduum, so that we the Church, are formed by the Paschal Mystery and rise to new life and a renewed sense of mission in and for the world.

We are at our best when we reflect on these issues together. Thank you to all those who did just that last Saturday. The journey continues.

If it would be of assistance, members of the Diocesan Liturgy Council are available to join communities over the coming year as they engage in reflection on these and other questions concerning our understanding and celebration of The Passion of the Lord.

 

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Louise Gannon rsj Image
Louise Gannon rsj

Louise Gannon rsj is the Diocesan Co-ordinator of Liturgy and Adult Faith Formation.