Cardinal Tobin Reflects on Experience of Paschal Triduum, from ‘Profound Sorrow to Intense Joy’

April 15, 2022
Vol. 3. No. 16

My Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Each year, the Church gives us the opportunity to share in the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ through our celebration of the liturgies for Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. As Pope Francis reminds us, this is “a time of grace” for us, a time to grow closer to God and to one other by experiencing prayerfully the powerful moments of Christ’s last days on Earth.

How can we be indifferent to Jesus’ suffering and death if we participate in his Last Supper; if we share his agony in the garden; if we see him scourged, mocked and crowned with thorns; if we witness his condemnation by religious and political authority; if we walk with him on the Way of the Cross; if we stand before the Crucified One as he utters his last words; and if we help his mother and a few faithful friends lay him in the tomb? How can we abandon him—as Peter and most of the others did—when we know that he will rise again on the third day?

The Paschal Triduum is meant to be a liturgical experience that runs the gamut from profound sorrow to intense joy. Why do we put ourselves through this every year? Why relive experiences that were excruciatingly painful—and shameful—for all concerned? Why re-enact the disciples’ infidelity and their failure to understand that Jesus had to rise from the dead (Jn 20:1–9)?

Pope Francis says we do these things in order to break through our indifference to our neighbor and to God. We observe the discipline of Lent, and we celebrate the great mysteries of the Paschal Triduum, in order to “trouble our conscience.” We need this time of interior renewal and reawakening, the Holy Father says, “lest we become indifferent and withdraw into ourselves.”

As we enter into the Paschal Triduum this year, let’s open our hearts to the presence of God as it manifests itself in many different ways—in the Eucharist, in the veneration of the Holy Cross, and in the singing of the “Exultet” and the Gloria at the Easter Vigil. The Church has given us a great gift to help us in these troubled times. We can walk with Jesus in synod, growing closer to him and to each other as we observe this sacred time. May our celebration of the Paschal Triduum help us break through our indifference and become united to Christ and to one another.

Resurrexit sicut dixit! Christ is risen as he said! This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad!

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.
Archbishop of Newark