Thursday, April 21, 2011

Triduum at the Monastery

submitted by Helene Mercier, OSB

As the holy days of Triduum arrive, I am reminded again this year how much I look forward both the significance of this time of the liturgical year and the splendid liturgies we have here at Saint Benedict's Monastery in St. Joseph.

We try to convey during these days that beginning Thursday evening until Easter morning all the liturgies we celebrate are one seamless piece, not separate events. Tonight, Holy Thursday, we begin with a festive "Passover" meal in the dining room with wine, lamb and beautifully set tables; then we proceed to Chapel for the Eucharist of Holy Thursday, at which we bring gifts to distribute to the less fortunate, and Sister Nancy Bauer, our prioress, washes the feet of 12 people. As we leave Chapel, we remember that silence now descends on the monastery until the Easter Vigil, Saturday evening.

On Good Friday at the Liturgy of the Hours, there are no hymns and no chanting of the psalms. However, the readings are from the Lamentations of Jeremiah and the Sisters chosen to do these readings chant them. If one listens attentively to the words being chanted, one cannot help but be deeply moved by them. In midafternoon there is the Good Friday service which is presided over by the prioress with the veneration of the cross by all present. Meanwhile, our simple meals during these days are taken in silence with table reading.

Holy Saturday dawns with an air of anticipation and quiet bustling around the monastery: the Sisters in the liturgy office bring out the beautiful flowers that have arrived; they decorate the chapel and prepare everything for the Easter Vigil that night. Finally, in the evening, at dusk, we gather outside for the blessing of the Easter candle and the beginning of the Vigil. After processing to the chapel following the blessed candle carried by the prioress, a Sister sings the Exultet, that great proclamation of the story of our salvation. After the seven readings are done we retire for the night; however, many of us come back during the night for what we call the "Night Watches." A few of us, with some of our friends who live nearby or are staying at the monastery, gather around the Easter candle for an hour of prayer and waiting.

We all return to the chapel before daylight Easter morning to conclude the Easter Vigil. We gather around the baptismal font for the blessing of the Easter water and the renewal of our baptismal promises. For our guests who have never celebrated the Easter Vigil with us, the chanting of the Gospel by the presiding priest and two Sisters is an awesome moment. After the Eucharist is over, we go down to the dining room for our special Easter breakfast, wishing everyone we meet on the way a Happy Easter.

May you have a blessed Triduum wherever you are and a Happy Easter!

photo: Sister Nancy Bauer washes the feet of Sister Madonna Niebolte. Photo by Gary Feldhege.


  1. Sounds like a beautiful time, silence, reflection, prayer and waiting. Wish I was

  2. I've never celebrated the Easter Vigil - it sounds beautiful. I will be with you in spirit.