Today, the Sacred Triduum begins. This is the holiest time of the year, during which we celebrate the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Our Lord. Taken from the Latin word for “three” (tris) + “day” (dies), the Triduum begins at sundown today, Holy Thursday, and concludes with Evening Prayer on Easter Sunday.
Among the many beautiful aspects of today’s liturgy is the “altar of repose.”
In a procession after Mass, the priest carries a ciborium containing the Blessed Sacrament to a side altar, which is abundantly decorated with flowers, candles, and even trees. These altars can be beautifully elaborate, and each one is different, as unique as the church that houses it.
The priest places the ciborium upon the altar of repose, and the faithful are invited to spend time with Our Lord in silent adoration. Our Lord will remain upon the altar until midnight, at which time He will be hidden away in a tabernacle until the Good Friday liturgy.
Taking the Blessed Sacrament to the altar of repose represents the movement of Our Lord from the house of the Last Supper to the Garden of Olives, where He underwent His agony and where He would be betrayed by Judas.
The altar’s flowers and verdure recall this Garden and also symbolize our love and welcoming of Our Lord during this time of His Passion.
We, the faithful, are His disciples. When Our Lord departed by Himself to pray, he asked Peter, James, and John to stay and keep watch. They unfortunately fell asleep, eliciting Our Lord’s sorrowful words: “Could you not watch one hour with Me?”
He says the same thing to us tonight. How will we respond?
One of the most touching portrayals of Our Lord’s Agony in the Garden is Carl Bloch’s famous image, a portrayal of Luke 22:43: “An angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him.” Framed in gold and printed in deep, vivid hues, this piece is a powerful image for meditation during the Triduum and the whole year through. Available today at The Catholic Company!