After Lent comes the shortest liturgical season – the Triduum. Encompassing many traditions and unique liturgies, it is the beginning of the pinnacle of the liturgical year.
As Pope Pius XII wrote in his encyclical, Mediator Dei (On the Sacred Liturgy):
- In Holy Week, when the most bitter sufferings of Jesus Christ are put before us by the liturgy, the Church invites us to come to Calvary and follow in the blood-stained footsteps of the divine Redeemer, to carry the cross willingly with Him, to reproduce in our own hearts His spirit of expiation and atonement, and to die together with Him.
After the 40 days of Lent, reflecting on our own sinfulness, we come face to face with the commemoration of our Lord’s Passion – the result of our sin and disobedience – and His deep and abiding love for each of us. We are invited to pilgrimage with Him through the Last Supper, in the Garden of Gethsemane, along the Way of the Cross, and up the Hill of Calvary. The somber, distinctive prayers and customs naturally draw churchgoers into contemplation, and we can add extra devotions or reflections to further deepen our journey of faith this season.
One tradition commonly practiced on Holy Thursday is that of the Seven Churches Visitation. Reminiscent of the Stations of the Cross, this devotion follows the seven “stations” Christ visited/made on the last evening of His life. Today, many of the faithful visit seven of their local churches to pray before their altars of repose, but the origins of the tradition are credited to St. Philip Neri in the 16th century when he and his friends would pray at seven of Rome’s basilicas.
These basilicas are:
- St. Peter’s
- St. Paul Outside the Walls
- St. John Lateran
- St. Mary Major
- St. Lawrence Outside the Walls
- Basilica of the Holy Cross
- Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love (previously St. Sebastian Outside-the-Walls)
And their corresponding stations, or events in Jesus’ life:
- Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:39-46)
- Jesus bound and taken before Annas (John 18:19-22)
- Jesus brought before Caiaphas, the High Priest (Matthew 26:63-65)
- Jesus taken before Pilate (John 18:35-37)
- Jesus brought to Herod (Luke 23:8-9, 11)
- Jesus taken before Pilate once more (Matthew 27:22-26)
- Jesus given the crown of thorns and led to His crucifixion (Matthew 27:27-31)
This is a beautiful and time-honored tradition, if you are able to participate. For some, distance is a hindrance, as there may not be seven Catholic churches with altars of repose within driving distance. However, even when one is unable to physically participate in a devotion or a pilgrimage such as this, the Lord still desires to shower graces upon His children. Last year, one of our staff members reflected upon this as many of the churches around the world were closed during this holy season.
Even though it is the shortest of the seasons in the liturgical year, the Triduum offers ample “stops” on our pilgrimage of faith.
To read the other blogs in this series, please click the appropriate link below.