Triduum –– In the dying is the rising

By Patrick Malloy

[Doctor Malloy wrote what appears below in 2009 when he was rector of Grace Allentown and professor at General Theological Seminary NYC. He is the author of Celebrating the Eucharist and currently interim dean at St. John's Cathedral, Denver CO.]

[March 2009: A year ago, Bill Lewellis asked me to write something about the Triduum: the three days that celebrate the passing of Jesus from life to death to glory, and our share in the pattern of his life, often called “the Paschal Mystery.”  It was only one year ago, but the world was different then, so the three-day feast was different, too, than the one we celebrate this year. This year Bill asked to re-publish the piece I wrote.  What follows is essentially that.  But last year’s words without commentary would not be enough.] 

The Triduum we will celebrate in 2009 –– the three-day feast often called “the Paschal Mystery” that celebrates the passing of Jesus from life to death to glory and our share in the pattern of his life –– will not be like the Triduum we celebrated in 2008.

It was only one year ago, but the world was different then, so the three-day feast was different, too, than the one we celebrate this year.

It will not be the same, because we are not the same. The story most people tell about their lives and their world this year is not what we told just one year ago. Yet, the wonder of how God-in-Christ passed from eternity into time, and from life into death, and from death into glory, has not changed. We have changed, our world has changed, but God remains.

The Triduum celebrates a dynamic that God revealed in Jesus. It is, at once, the dynamic of divine life and the dynamic of human life. Jesus, in his divinity, reveals that God forsakes everything for us mortals; and, when all is finished, God remains glorious. The human Jesus reveals that when mortals like us forsake everything for the sake of God, we share in God’s glory. The mystery is the same, whether we consider Jesus as the divine mortal or as the human God.

All of this goes entirely against the grain and defies logic. Death and life are opposites; they cannot be intertwined. Yet, the story of Jesus is that they are. Anyone who would be Jesus’ disciple must claim it as true, even if it seems impossible.

This year more than last, our world is facing the death of so much. What can we, as disciples of the crucified yet risen Lord, say in the face of such loss? How can we declare to the world that, as the Lord has shown us, death can be a passage into glorious life?

We Christians must speak courage in the face of fear, hope in the face of despair. The story we tell across the Three Day is as true today as it was when first it unfolded in Jesus’ life. What looks like death can be life. Jesus is the proof.

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Here are bits and pieces of what I wrote last year (2008) about the Triduum for Diocesan Life.

Addicts speak of “hitting bottom” as if it were the greatest gift they had ever received.  Recognizing their own powerlessness, they simultaneously admit their need for a savior. They call it their “Higher Power.”

What allows addicts to rejoice in the day they hit bottom is that only there did they finally find God. In the midst of the suffering is the salvation. In the midst of the loss is the gain.

In the sixth century, Venantius Fortunatus wrote a poem in honor of a supposed relic of the true cross. It has come into the Hymnal 1982 as The Royal Banners Forward Go. What Fortunatus captures so beautifully and so clearly is that, in the passing of Jesus from life through death into glory, grace was never absent. Never had God deserted the Son; rather, even in what seemed like tragedy, God’s saving hand was already at work. So the cross, rather than being ugly and shameful, an unfortunate part of the story better left behind, is instead a thing of beauty and honor. Already on the cross, Jesus’ glory had begun.

O tree of beauty, tree most fair,
Ordained those holy limbs to bear
Gone is thy shame, each crimsoned bough
Proclaims the king of glory now.

Some people think it odd, if not a bit macabre, that we Christians dangle crosses around our necks and hang them on our walls and mount them above our altars. They liken it to using miniature electric chairs as jewelry or art. What Christians see in the cross, however, is not the destruction of a life but its fulfillment; not defeat but triumph.

Fulfilled is all that David told
In true prophetic song of old:
How God the nations’ king should be,
For God is reigning from the tree.

The cross is not an electric chair. It is a throne.

As he gave himself to his disciples as fragile Bread and Wine; as he made himself their servant, stooping even to the task of washing their feet; as he knowingly and willingly allowed his betrayer to be free even if it meant his own death; as he stood clear and proud and strong before Pilate, Jesus was living the glorified life. Jesus is the glory of God made flesh; at no time in his earthly life was it so clear as during those last days.

Every year, the church celebrates those days in a feast called “The Paschal Triduum.” It stretches from sundown on Maundy Thursday (which, according to the way the liturgical day is calculated, is actually the beginning of Good Friday) to sundown on Easter Sunday. The three 24-hour days are, in fact, one liturgical day. They celebrate, not three distinct events, but one complex dynamic. They celebrate that the self-offering of God in Christ reveals God’s glory. The resurrection is but one facet of how the Divine Majesty is revealed.

What these liturgies (or, rather, this protracted liturgy) celebrate is a current reality, not something long past. That is because what we celebrate in those days is not just what happened to Jesus long ago or even who Jesus once was. It is what happens still, and who he is still. Always and forever, it is of God’s very nature to give the Divine Self for the sake of what God has made.

To do these liturgies so that they are experienced as one continuous event requires skill and effort. To celebrate them with a vigor and ritual fullness that can reveal the Mystery they contain demands deep understanding, focus, time, and a great deal of work. It is worth it. It is worth it because, to understand what this three-day-long day celebrates is to understand and to actually experience the God revealed in Christ.

The 2009 Triduum will not be like the 2008 Triduum.  The world has changed. We have changed. In the face of so much fear and the death of so much certainty, how can we celebrate that God’s life cannot be conquered no matter what else dies? How can we enact the wonderful and ancient rites of the Prayer Book so that we emerge from them knowing in our very bones that in the midst of the dying is the rising? How can we be strengthened to gracefully let go of what will be snatched from our hands, whether we are willing to let it go or not? Think of the economy. So much is slipping through our fingers. This is a hard, concrete fact. It is not a theological concept, and people cannot escape just how real it is. Can we proclaim the Divine pattern to them: from life to death to glory?

“Even at the grave,” the burial rite says, “we make our song: Alleluia.”  The Triduum 2009 brings us face-to-face with an essential question. Do we really sing Alleluia in the face of death, and mean it? Do we dare sing it at the edge of the grave and the foot of the cross? Are we certain –– with the fragile certainty of faith –– that in the dying is the rising and in the cross is the crown, and are we willing to stake our lives on it? 

Only if we are that daring is the Triduum worth celebrating. With such daring, we can live in the midst of death, confident that it conceals, thinly at best, new and glorious life, and that, by Baptism, the life is already ours.

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The Paschal Triduum: one three-day-long event celebrating one saving dynamic ... even in the midst of death there is life. [An excerpt from Celebrating the Eucharist by Patrick Malloy, pp. 72-73, Church Publishing, 2007] Find it here.

 


General Theological Seminary appoints the Rev. Canon Patrick Malloy Associate Dean

[Editor's note: Canon Malloy was formerly rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Allentown before becoming Associate Professor of Liturgy at General Theological Seminary]

For Immediate Release
29 July 2011

General Seminary Appoints New Leadership Positions

New York City--The Rev. Lang Lowrey, President of The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church (GTS) today announced the appointment of two new faculty leadership positions to oversee the school’s academic life and to provide ceremonial oversight of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. The appointments anticipate the departure of the Seminary’s present Dean, the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, who has been named Interim Dean of the American Cathedral in Paris, a position Bishop Lee will assume in January 2012. “Bishop Lee’s tenure at the Seminary has benefited our institution enormously,” said President Lowrey before announcing the new appointments. “He has overseen the revitalization of General’s faculty by adding three new members. He has also overseen the planning and dedication of the new Keller Library as well as instituting an innovative distance learning initiative, all the while aiding our advancement effort significantly and serving as a faithful pastor to faculty and students alike. We will truly miss his ministry here in Chelsea Square.”

Under the new leadership plan announced by Lowrey, most of Bishop Lee’s responsibilities will be lodged with the Seminary’s new Associate Dean, the Rev. Canon Patrick Malloy, who currently serves as Associate Professor of Liturgy in the H. Boone Porter Chair. In addition, to fulfill the ceremonial duties of the dean’s office, Distinguished Visiting Professor of Anglican Studies, the Most Rev. Dr. Peter Carnley, former Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, will serve as President of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. In this new position Archbishop Carnley will fulfill some of the ceremonial functions associated with the deanship. As Professor Malloy assumes the responsibilities of Associate Dean, he is expected to announce several new leadership positions at the Seminary.

Approved in October by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, the two new appointments will take effect on January 1, 2012. “The talent and creativity these two professors represent is equaled by their dedication to the Seminary’s mission to serve the educational needs of the church that is being born in our midst,” said Lowrey. “These are truly visionary educators who will help lead General Seminary into a new era of service.”

The General Theological Seminary, located in the heart of New York City, educates and forms leaders for the church in a changing world. Founded in 1817 as the first theological seminary of the Episcopal Church, General offers certificate and degree programs including the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts, and Doctor of Theology. The Seminary is also home to the Desmond Tutu Center, a full-service conference center with sixty modern guest rooms.

# # #

Media Contact:
Bruce Parker
Senior Vice President for External Relations
The General Theological Seminary
440 West 21st Street
New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x285
[email protected]


Grace in the City: Urban Ministry in the New Normal

Anglican Theological Review
By Patrick Malloy
Professor, General Theological Seminary NYC
Rector, Grace Allentown.

 

The current “great recession” has had an impact on Allentown, Pennsylvania, just as it has on every city in the world. Well before the days of Bernie Madoff and subprime mortgages, though, Allentown and the other cities of the Lehigh Valley were navigating an economic tragedy.

The driver of the Lehigh Valley’s economic fortunes was the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. It was headquartered in a twenty-onestory building, the tallest in the Lehigh Valley by only eight feet, but that was enough to dispel any doubts about who dominated the economy. Its research center and executive dining room sat clearly visible on the highest mountain in the Valley, a looming reminder of the power that controlled the destiny of nearly every person below. And there below, deep in the crevice between the hills, was the plant that produced the steel that made Bethlehem and its neighboring cities thrive. Allentown was one.

The Bethlehem Steel plant was the largest factory in the world, and they say it glowed red in the night and lit up the sky for miles. It is empty now and decrepit except for one small corner that has become a Sands Casino. So grand are the buildings that they are striking even in their rusted decay. The mountaintop building has been absorbed by Lehigh University, and the office building stands dark and empty, towering against a sky no longer bright with the furnaces’ fire. The fate of many who once worked for Bethlehem Steel is like the fate of the company’s real estate. So is the fate of many of their descendants. So, too, is the fate of many of the people who moved into the homes of the workers who made the steel. As they chased faraway jobs, their once grand houses were divided into makeshift apartments, while “outsiders,” who brought with them problems that the Lehigh Valley had never known, resettled the neighborhoods. Center City Allentown, more than any other place in the Lehigh Valley, fell apart.

Download the entire article here.




The Paschal Mystery – In the dying is the rising

By Patrick Malloy

[This column was written prior to Holy Week 2009. Download the Diocesan Life page, Download 090402.pdf, or read it all below.]

The Triduum we will celebrate in 2009 –– the three-day feast often called “the Paschal Mystery” that celebrates the passing of Jesus from life to death to glory and our share in the pattern of his life –– will not be like the Triduum we celebrated in 2008.

It was only one year ago, but the world was different then, so the three-day feast was different, too, than the one we celebrate this year.

It will not be the same, because we are not the same. The story most people tell about their lives and their world this year is not what we told just one year ago. Yet, the wonder of how God-in-Christ passed from eternity into time, and from life into death, and from death into glory, has not changed. We have changed, our world has changed, but God remains.

Continue reading "The Paschal Mystery – In the dying is the rising" »