Services are celebrated all over the world according to a basic structure. Once you have learned the individual elements, you can find your way around – whether in a catholic church in bamberg or in africa, america or asia. The liturgy during holy week can be all the more confusing. Because it is somehow different. At the same time the "triduum paschale" is or also "triduum sacrum from basic thursday evening to easter night the high point of all church festivals par excellence: "whoever takes his faith seriously should take part in the three celebrations from thursday to sunday, even if according to church law only easter sunday is necessary", bamberger liturgy scholar and cathedral chaplain peter wunsche tells our newspaper. The triduum begins exactly with the holy communion service on holy thursday and ends with easter vespers. Canon wunsche speaks of a "continuous inner context" this longest service in the church year.
The first key to understanding this liturgy, which at first glance seems rather rudimentary, is that the three holy days are in reality only one day – and one service. Everything that seems to be missing, such as the final blessing in the communion service or funeral words in the good friday liturgy, is explained by this. It is a single feast and therefore a liturgy that covers three days. "Mourning and joy in one service make it clear that christ’s suffering and resurrection are two sides of the same salvation event", according to peter wunsche.
"The three paschal days of the passion, death and resurrection of the lord" begin solemnly at the mass of the last supper on holy thursday, then become quiet and simple. First the organ plays loudly, the bells ring out, and the altar boys ring their bells. And then, in many places, the organ falls silent until the easter vigil, and the altar servers only use wooden clappers. The eucharist then takes center stage. During the consecration – for the only time in the ecclesiastical year – the words are changed. Then, depending on the high prayer, it means "for the evening on which he was delivered up and freely submitted to suffering – that is today" or "for in the night when he was betrayed – that is today – he took bread and said thanks to…".
After communion the consecrated hosts are transferred to a side chapel. The tabernacle remains open and empty. The altar is covered: "this has long been interpreted as a reference to the abandonment of jesus and the deprivation of his clothes."
Just as the gospel of the basic thursday deals with the washing of the flesh, which jesus performed on his young people at that time, this is also celebrated after the sermon in many congregations – in the cathedral, as an episcopal church, the washing of the flesh is even obligatory. Canon wunsche makes it clear that "the washing of the flesh is possible in every parish and is integrated into the mass". And: "according to pope franciscus, women are also allowed to wash their fists." Archbishop ludwig schick performed this act in 2017, for example, on women from the diocesan council. This year it is the turn of the singers of the cathedral choir.
The good friday liturgy at the hour of jesus’ death, that is, at 3:00 p.M., is characterized by the reading of the passion, the veneration of the cross, and the rude petitions of the fours. The "celebration of the passion and death of christ is not a eucharist celebration. Communion is administered "in the sense of an interior union with the dying christ". On holy saturday, there is a funeral prayer, for example in st. Mary’s church. St. Martin’s church, so called because of the readings from jeremiah’s laments. On the day of the burial of jesus there is no service except the hourly prayer. The whole of holy saturday will be "eucharistic fasting" held without the reception of communion.
Intense easter experience
The easter vigil, in the period after sunset and before sunrise, is the center of the "triduum paschale". "For those who are not familiar with the church, I recommend starting with the easter vigil", says liturgy expert wunsche. The liturgy – consisting of the four elements of light celebration, liturgy of the word, baptism, eucharist – is an intense easter experience. In front of the church in the open air, the priest first blesses the paschal fire and lights the paschal candle on it. In a procession the candle is carried into the dark house of god – under the threefold call "lumen christi – deo gratias" – "christ, the light – thanks be to god". The light of the paschal candle is passed on to the altar servers and to all those celebrating. There follows – still without electric light – the sung easter praise, the so-called exsultet, and the bible readings. At the gloria it becomes solemn: the organ plays again, all the bells ring out and the lights are turned on in many places: "it would be better to do without artificial light at all during the easter vigil", stimulates domkapitular wunsche.
Before the gospel, the hallelujah is heard for the first time since ash wednesday. The profession of faith is made before the prayers of the fours, because all present renew their baptismal vows and are sprinkled with the blessed easter water. The celebration of the eucharist is the high point of the most important service in the church year. The easter season ends with pentecost.
Death is not the last
How can easter be explained to a modern person who may have difficulty believing in a personal resurrection?? Canon peter wunsche gives this answer: "easter is a protest against structures of death such as oppression and violence. Death is not the last, resurrection is also an experience of liberation. From calamity to salvation, guilt can be overcome and forgiven. Easter means hope for the future."