3:24 pm

Liturgical Anthropology: Triduum

I was half expecting quadrilingual liturgy for Triduum, much as we had for Palm Sunday, but in fact, for Holy Thursday and Good Friday, we had strictly English language liturgies. The Spanish speaking community had their liturgies in St. Barbara’s Chapel, just off the cloister garden, and I have no idea where the Czech community ended up. And for Easter Sunday, we had our usual schedule of three Masses, one for each community. For Easter Vigil, though, we did indeed have a Czech-Spanish-English-Latin mix, similar to that of Palm Sunday.

Holy Thursday and Good Friday

The liturgies on Holy Thursday and Good Friday were largely unremarkable. I was glad to see, though, during the ceremony of the washing of feet that Sv. Tomáš does not follow the practice of having only men come forward. Instead there was a mix of men and women, and even one child. There were, however, only 6 washees; I’m not sure why we didn’t have the full complement of 12.

The only place where the Good Friday service departed from the norm was in the timing: it took place at 6:30 PM rather than mid-day. I think this was probably a concession to the fact that in this largely atheistic city, it would be difficult for working people to attend a mid-day service. I was disappointed, though, as I had wanted to attend a performance of Dvořák’s Stabat Mater that had been scheduled for that evening at Národní Divadlo.

Easter Vigil

As at Palm Sunday, the quadrilingual nature of the service made it difficult to follow along, and I’m seriously disappointed with the way in which Sv. Tomáš handles this. I’m thinking that, next year, I’m going to give serious consideration to making a Triduum retreat in an English-speaking country.

It was gratifying to see, though, the number of people being received for Baptism: there were eight Czech neophytes and two from the English-speaking community. And that’s the only thing that would hold me back from going on a retreat instead: a Vigil without Baptism would seem rather hollow.

At the conclusion of the Vigil service, we had a "Theophoric Procession", which was described to us as a Czech tradition. (I had to look "theophoric" up myself: it’s from the Greek meaning "bearing a deity".) The presiding priests and the altar servers went in procession to St. Dorothy’s Chapel, which had been used as the Reservation Chapel following Holy Thursday’s Transfer of the Sacrament. They knocked at the door of the Chapel, which opened to reveal a statue of the resurrected Jesus. The statue was then carried in procession, followed by the community, out of the church, around the cloister gardens, and back into the church, where the statue was left at the altar, by the ambo.

Easter Sunday

For the Easter Sunday Mass, we again had not only a Theophoric Procession, but an "Encuentro" (Spanish for "encounter"). This is a tradition borrowed, obviously enough, from the Spanish. In this particular version, while the men of the community were invited to process behind the statue of the resurrected Christ, the women were invited (though not obliged – Father William was very careful about that!) to follow a black-draped statue of Our Lady out through a different door of the church and around the cloister gardens, in the opposite direction traced by the Theophoric Procession. Our two groups met in front of St. Barbara’s Chapel, and the statue of Our Lady was unveiled, representing the first post-resurrection meeting between Jesus and His mother. We then completed our circuit of the gardens and returned to the church, where the statue of the resurrected Christ was returned to its place near the ambo while the statue of Our Lady went to the opposite side of the altar.

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