Tonight, all over the world, Catholics will experience a profound paradox. The same one we've been experiencing all Lent, in fact.
For 40 days, we have been waiting for our Lord. Tonight begins the sacred Triduum, the grand Three Days which are the culmination of the liturgical year. Tonight begins three days of mystery which culminates in the holiest night of the year: the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday.
Tonight is celebrated the Last Supper, the Institution of the Eucharist and of the Priesthood. Tonight we hear these words from 1 Cor. 11:23-26:
Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, "This is my body that 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." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.Tonight we do...
...what we do every Sunday, every day even, at Mass.
What is it that we do? When the priest celebrates the Mass, he is actually going through the Triduum. He begins with the last supper, "This is my body, this is my blood..." From there we experience the crucifixion and death, the breaking of the body, until we are brought at last to the "Ecce Agnus Dei, ecce qui tollit peccata mundi." Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world, in which the priest reunites the fractured host, elevating it with the Chalice, reuniting the Body and the Blood as we are brought again to the Resurrection.
All through Lent, we have been celebrating that for which we have been waiting.
Tonight, we shall celebrate that mystery into which we are entering.
That night, Our Lord's sacrifice at table was unified to the suffering which he was yet to begin, and they partook of His glorified body, which in time He had not yet attained. Every moment is the Lord's, present to Him simultaneously in eternity which is reflected in the way that even in the penitential season of Lent, we celebrate the feast of victory.
May this Triduum help us to experience more deeply the Mass, that every time we attend it may be for us another Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.