Pastoral Letter on the Sacredness of the Holy Tridum
PASTORAL LETTER ON THE SACREDNESS OF THE HOLY TRIDUUM
“DO THIS IN MEMORY OF ME”(Lk 22:19)
OF THE BISHOP OF MAMFE MOST REVEREND ANDREW FUANYA NKEA
TO THE PRIESTS, DEACONS, RELIGIOUS, FAITHFUL, TRADITIONAL RULERS, MEN AND WOMEN OF GOODWILL OF THE DIOCESE
We have now entered the holy season of Lent which for forty days we shall walk the path of the suffering and death of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ in fidelity to his command; “Do this in memory of Me.”The Final days of Lent bring us to — Holy Week (Sacred Triduum) — so called because we will commemorate the most solemn events in the history of mankind, the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And now more than ever, the principle Lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of praying is the law of believing) is manifested to us in our sacred liturgy. Triduum comes from the Latin Tri and dies meaning three days. The Easter Triduum, therefore refers to the Great Three Days of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday/Easter Sunday. During these days, Christians are invited to enter into the Heart of the Mystery of Faith and to meditate on the central events of our Redemption, the essential core of our faith. It marks the end of the forty days of Lent and the beginning of the three-day celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This Sacred period of the Church’s life has been undergoing a serious and consistent attack in some communities of the Diocese of Mamfe.
I. AN INCREASINGLY WORRYING SITUATION IN MAMFE, CAMEROON AND THE WORLD
1. One hundred years have gone since the Catholic Faith came to our area through the missionary activity of the German Pallotine Fathers; fifteen years have gone since the Holy Father Pope St John Paul II created Mamfe Diocese; our Christian population has increased from 22,678 to 142,285; our parishes have grown from 6 parishes to 27; many more priests, religious men and women, catechists and laity have emerged and taken up active commitment in the mission of evangelization in our diocesan territory. The Leadership of our diocese has passed from the pioneer Bishop to its second Bishop and the work of evangelization is growing from strength to strength. In spite of the above enumerated graces gained throughout these years, it is important to realize that there is an area of our pastoral life which has become a serious challenge and deserves special attention. I can say without fear or favour that our religion and our religious practices are under attack from the forces of evil and the powers of darkness. Experience has shown that a majority of our Christian faithful lack a proper understanding of the Sacredness of the Holy Triduum and this has caused the Holy Triduum to be trampled upon thereby bringing many aberrations in the decorum, liturgical and spiritual significance of the Sacred Triduum. Christians must be careful that they don’t fall into the Devil’s trap by making our faith take second place. Over the years we have realized that;
a.) It has almost become a norm in our area that some Cultural and Development Associations have decided to put their Village Cultural Week Celebrations exclusively during the Holy Week. In some cases, even when the traditional rulers and villagers object to the timing of the Cultural Week, the elites and Cultural Development Associations insist on maintaining this period.
b.) Some years ago in our country, members of the Rosicrucian Order, organized their general annual meeting during the Holy Triduum, thus desecrating this Holy Three days with activities and teachings that go against the resurrection of Christ.
c.) Even in this Year of Mercy 2016, many Gay Pride Marches and Fetish Parades have been organized in some major cities in the world during the Holy Week, and these will serve as a big distraction to the Christian communities, and even pull some Christians to attend.
d.)Some Individual Christians have made it a tradition to organize “cry die” celebrations only during the Holy Week period.
e.)Some groups practically carry out their annual camping and leisure trips only during the Holy Week under the pretext that it is a long weekend.
f.)Many people insist on executing business plans, business trips and transactions only during this period of Holy Week. This explains why during Holy Week in some places, the shops and bars are full while churches are empty.
g.)Some youth groups organize their so called Easter Galas during Holy Week thereby profaning the sacredness of Holy Week. Again, while in some places the bars and night clubs are full on Holy Saturday night, the Churches are empty for the Easter Vigil ceremonies.
h.)Some Political parties have also organized in the past their political rallies and political meetings during Holy Week, under-minding the sacredness of this period for Christians who are also called to fully partake in the political lives of their communities.
i.)Some families adamantly slate funerals and burials only during Holy Week whereas liturgical law prohibits a funeral Mass during the Holy Triduum.
j.)The number of cows, pigs and goats that are slaughtered for these celebrations especially on Good Friday makes the Christians to compromise the spiritual and liturgical demands of Holy Week
In order to derive the spiritual benefits that we should during this sacred time, let us briefly consider some of the main liturgical ceremonies in which the Mystical Body of Christ, the Catholic Church, renders the supreme worship due to her Divine Saviour during the Sacred Triduum.
THE MYSTERY OF THE SACRED TRIDUUM
2. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council reminded us of the extraordinary significance of the Triduum: “Christ redeemed us all and gave perfect glory to God principally through his paschal mystery: dying he destroyed our death and rising he restored our life. Therefore the Easter Triduum of the passion and resurrection of Christ is the culmination of the entire liturgical year.”[ Cf. General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar,# 18] The last Forty Days were a time of preparation for these great Three days, which is what Triduum means.
3. The Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs us: “Beginning with the Easter Triduum as its source of light, the new age of the Resurrection fills the whole liturgical year with its brilliance. Gradually, on either side of this source, the year is transfigured by the liturgy. It really is a “year of the Lord’s favor.”[ CCC 1168-1169.] The economy of salvation is at work within the framework of time, but since its fulfillment is in the Passover of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the culmination of history is anticipated “as a foretaste,” and the kingdom of God enters into our time. Therefore Easter is not simply one feast among others, but the Feast of feasts, the Solemnity of solemnities, just as the Eucharist is the “Sacrament of sacraments” (the Great Sacrament). St. Athanasius calls Easter the Great Sunday and the Eastern Churches call Holy Week the Great Week. The mystery of the Resurrection, in which Christ crushed death, permeates with its powerful energy our old time, until all is subjected to him. [ Cf. ibid.]
4. At the very epicenter of our Liturgical Calendar is the great Three days we celebrate, Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Resurrection of the Lord, the Sacred Triduum. During these days we do not simply have a re-enactment of something that happened over 2000 years ago but an actual participation in the events themselves through living faith. These events are outside of time and made present in our Liturgical celebrations and in our reception of the Sacraments. It becomes important for the Christians to understand what we actually celebrate during the Sacred Triduum.
5. The first part of the Holy Thursday celebration has to do with Holy Chrism Mass, a morning prelude to Holy Thursday. During this Mass, all the priests gather with their own Bishop in the Cathedral during which the oil of the sick and of the catechumens and chrism are blessed. In addition, the Bishop and Priests renew the priestly promises that they spoke on the day of their Ordination. Due to the terrain of our Diocese, the Chrism Mass usually takes place on Tuesday of Holy Week so as to give priests and faithful who come from distant places the opportunity to return to their parishes on time to celebrate the Sacred Triduum. In the evening of Holy Thursday, we celebrate the Institution of the Eucharist. Writing to the Corinthians, the Apostle, Paul, strengthened the early Christians in the truth of the Eucharistic Mystery, conveying to them what he himself had learned. “The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my Body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me’. In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my Blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me’[ 1 Cor. 11:23-25.] These words clearly express Christ’s intention: under the species of the bread and the wine, he makes himself really present with his Body given and his Blood poured out as a sacrifice of the New Covenant. At the same time, he constitutes the Apostles and their successors, ministers of this Sacrament, which he entrusts to his Church as a supreme proof of his love. Furthermore, on Holy Thursday we also have the washing of the feet which is reminiscent of Jesus’ gesture, who washes the Apostles’ feet (Jn 13:1-25). For the writer of the Fourth Gospel, this act comes to portray the whole of Jesus’ life and reveals his love to the end, an infinite love that is capable of preparing man for communion with God and of setting him free. Above all those called to celebrate this sacrificial love are invited to go and do the same. At the end of the Holy Thursday Liturgy the Church puts the Blessed Sacrament in a specially prepared place that represents Jesus’ loneliness and mortal anguish in Gethsemane. Before the Eucharist, the faithful contemplate Jesus in the hour of his solitude and pray that all the loneliness, poverty and strife in the world may cease.
6. It is Good Friday, even though for those without faith and in human reckoning, the events of the Friday cannot render it Good. It is good because on this Friday, we stand at the Altar of the Cross where heaven is rejoined to earth and earth to heaven, along with the Mother of the Lord. We will enter into the moment that forever changed – and still changes – all human History, the great self gift of the Son of God who did for us what we could never do for ourselves as in the words of the ancient Exultet, trampling on death by death. We will wait at the tomb and witness the Glory of the Resurrection and the beginning of the New Creation. On Good Friday Jesus sacrifices himself for the forgiveness of humanity’s sins, choosing to this end the most brutal and humiliating death: crucifixion. There is an inseparable connection between the Last Supper and Jesus’ death. At the Last Supper Jesus gives his Body and his Blood, that is, his earthly existence, himself, anticipating his death and transforming it into an act of love. Thus he makes death — which by its nature is the end, the destruction of every relationship — an act of the communication of himself, a means of salvation and of the proclamation of the victory of love. In this way, Jesus becomes the key to understanding the Last Supper, which is an anticipation of the transformation of violent death into a voluntary sacrifice; into an act of love that redeems and saves the world. In commenting on Good Friday, St. John Chrysostom observes: “First, the Cross stood for contempt, but today it is something venerable; before it was the symbol of condemnation, today it is the hope of salvation. It has truly become a source of infinite good; it has freed us from error, it has dispelled our shadows, it has reconciled us with God, it has transformed us from being enemies of God to being members of his family, from being strangers to being his neighbours: this Cross is the destruction of enmity, the source of peace, the casket of our treasure”
We thank God that in our country, Good Friday is a public holiday, thus giving all Christians the opportunity to take part in the celebrations. Even with this, some Christians don’t still go to church, and to such Christians, Jesus personally addresses his reproaches in the following words: “My people, what have I done to you? Or How have I offended you? Answer me”.
7. Holy Saturday is marked by a profound silence. The Churches are bare and no special Liturgies are planned. In this time of waiting and hope, believers are invited to prayer, reflection and conversion, also by means of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, in order to take part, intimately renewed, in the celebration of Easter. In the night of Holy Saturday, during the solemn Easter Vigil, “mother of all vigils”, this silence will be broken by the singing of the Alleluia which announces Christ’s Resurrection and proclaims the victory of light over darkness, of life over death. The Church will rejoice in the encounter with her Lord, entering Easter Day which the Lord will inaugurate by rising from the dead. Holy Saturday is the day when the liturgy is hushed, the day of great silence, and Christians are invited to preserve interior recollection, often difficult to encourage in our day, in order to be better prepared for the Easter Vigil. Finally, during the Easter Vigil the veil of sorrow which shrouds the Church because of the death of the Lord will be torn by the victorious cry: Christ is risen and has defeated death forever! We will then truly be able to understand the mystery of the Cross, “since God also creates wonders even in the impossible”, an ancient writer says, “so that we may know that he alone can do what he wills. From his death comes our life, from his wounds our healing, from his fall our resurrection, from his descent our uplifting”
THE CHRISTIAN TRADITION OF OBSERVING THE SACRED TRIDUUM
8. To relive the Redeemer’s Passion more intensely, the Christian tradition has developed many manifestations of popular piety, including the well-known Good Friday processions with the evocative rites, repeated each year. However, there is one pious practice, the Way of the Cross, which offers us throughout the year the possibility of impressing the mystery of the Cross ever more deeply on our minds, of accompanying Christ along this path and thus being inwardly conformed to him. The Way of the Cross teaches us, in the word of St. Leo the Great, to “look at the Crucified Jesus with the eyes of the heart, to recognize in his flesh our own”.[ Cf. St Leo the Great, Talk 15, On the Lord’s Passion. ] Precisely in this lies the true Christian wisdom which we want to learn by taking the Way of the Cross on Good Friday.
9. Good Friday, which commemorates the events between Christ’s condemnation to death and his Crucifixion, is a day of penance, fasting and prayer, of participation in the Lord’s Passion. At the prescribed hour, the Christian Assembly, with the help of the Word of God and liturgical actions, renews the history of human infidelity to the divine plan, which was nonetheless brought about exactly in this way; and it listens once again to the moving narrative of the Lord’s sorrowful Passion. On this day, Christians are to fast from meat and alcoholic drink. The adoration of the Cross on Good Friday is very significant. The community adores the Cross and receives the Eucharist, consuming the sacred species reserved from the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on the previous day.
10. From the above explanation of the significance of the Sacred Triduum in the life of the Church and the life of the individual Christian, it becomes abnormal and usual that some Catholic Christians not only stay away but consciously and knowingly go against the liturgical and Sacramental prescriptions of the Church on Holy Week.
PASTORAL DIRECTIVES TO THE CHRISTIANS OF MAMFE DIOCESE ON THE OBSRVANCE OF HOLY WEEK
11. All Catholic Christians within the Diocese of Mamfe are hereby called upon to massively attend and take active part in all the liturgical celebrations of the Holy Week and above all, observe the spirit of the season by maintaining a recollected and prayerful atmosphere throughout the week.
12. Every Catholic Christian within the Diocese of Mamfe is forbidden from taking part in any socio-cultural activities during the Holy Triduum that will compromise and abuse the Sacredness of the Holy Week. These activities are more often than not, centred around eating and drinking and unholy activities that live much to be desired of any true Catholic Christian worth the name. I therefore call on all Christians to boycott any such socio-cultural activities organized during Holy Week and be ready to suffer for it, if it comes to that. We cannot allow Satan to hijack our faith and destroy our religious practices.
13. Catholic Christians in the Diocese of Mamfe are not allowed to organize Memorial services (cry-dies), burials and traditional weddings (knock doors) during the Holy Week. If anyone organizes such ceremonies, Christians are not allowed to attend them and take part in them, even if such celebrations concern our close relatives and friends.
14. No Catholic Priest is allowed to celebrate Mass for a burial, Memorial, wedding or any other liturgical celebration outside the rites of the Sacred Triduum. The instructions in the “Ordo” forbidding such celebrations must be followed to the letter.
15. All Catholic Christians are forbidden from eating meat, drinking alcohol and attending popular secular celebrations that diminish and destroy the spirit of Holy Week.
16. Christians who go against these pastoral directives must abstain from receiving the Most Holy Eucharist throughout the period of Easter[ Since their actions have shown that Easter means nothing to them and thus the Eucharist becomes a mere formality] and for a length of time with severe penances that will determined by the Parish Priest as proper pastor.
17. If it is the whole Christian community that boycotts the Easter Triduum in favour of socio-cultural activities (as has happened in some places), the parish priest is to refer the matter immediately to the Diocesan Bishop. If the place is a parish with a resident priest, penalty may not exclude suspending the parish centre and withdrawing the resident priest.
18. When our Lord says; you are the light of the world, may your light shine before men, that they my turn from darkness and sin and give glory to God,[ Cf. Mt. 5:13-14] it clearly shows the role followers of Christ should play in the world. We cannot allow non-Christians, churchgoers, protagonists of religious difference, lukewarm Christians and tired believers to determine the course of events in our society. Christians must be the head and not the tail, the first and not the last, leaders and not followers.[ Cf. Deut. 28:13] Hence, in spite of the pressure from all sorts of cultural and traditional pressure groups to downplay the relevance and importance of Holy Week by insisting on putting socio-cultural activities, Catholic Christians must stand up to their faith and defend the right course. We remain the strongest force to reckon with in the world. So much so that, if all Catholic Christians decide to truly be faithful to the observance of Holy Week and not join these activities that profane the Three great Days, of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil, those unreligious activities will collapse because the majority of us will not be there and since they cannot beat us, they will join us! What a great act of aggressive evangelization that would be!
19. Like the Holy Father has enjoined us, let us not waste this Lenten period, let us not go through these forty days and come out with nothing. As these days of Lent are a preparation for the Triduum, the Holy Father concludes; Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favourable a time for conversion! May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, intercede for us during this period of Lent that we may sit at the foot of her son’s cross and at the end receive the crown of victory which is the prize of those who will persevere to the end and enter that heavenly inheritance where Jesus reigns with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever.