I know this is a little belated, but over the next few days I will try to put down my thoughts on the different elements of the Triduum, beginning with the Mass of the Lord's Supper:
I truly love attending this mass each year. Whilst recognising the significance of the consecration at any mass, Jesus' words in the Eucharistic Prayer on the evening of Maundy Thursday seem even more powerful than usual.
This year I was asked to be one of the twelve who had their feet washed during the service, and of course I said yes (I couldn't really turn the priest down when he asked directly). This was a very unusual experience. I do some small works in my parish as I am needed to, but always with the deference to the priest that was instilled in me when I was only a child. Now I found myself sitting on the steps of the sanctuary letting a priest wash my feet. In honesty it felt very awkward, but then we had just heard in the Gospel that it was awkward for the apostles. I cannot help but draw other parallels with that Gospel passage: The priest is a servant of those whose feet he washes, whilst at the same time being deserving of respect and of the authority he holds; to turn the priest down would be to recognise one part of his priestly function and ignore the other. I do not claim that the theology behind these parallels is defined, but they did occur to me during and after that part of the mass.
The mass ended with the transfer of the Most Blessed Sacrament to the altar of repose. I was disappointed that the Pange Lingua Gloriosi was not sung - I think it is one of the most beautiful hymns ever written; but I will say more on music in the liturgy in a future post. The stripping of the sanctuary after this mass is a terribly sad thing to witness; particularly the removal of the sanctuary lamp and the cloth covering the tabernacle.
I stayed at the altar of repose for an hour or so after mass and went through the first parts of the Passion in my mind; the agony in the garden certainly, but also on into what happened to our Lord over that night. I was struck with a sense of despair that I have not felt before; although it seemed entirely appropriate. The closest thing I can liken it to is watching a sad film that you have seen before; you are willing the characters to do something different, to avoid the unhappy ending; but of course they will not - it is the same film as the last time you saw it. How must it have been for Christ in that garden? He knew the ending of his story, and wanted dearly to avoid it, even had the option to avoid it, but he saw it through nevertheless.
To sum this post up in two simple thoughts: The moving example of Christ's service in the mass; followed by the despair of knowing what had to come next.