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March 27, 2020

Worshiping at home during Holy Week

Worshiping at home during Holy Week

With parishes closing their doors to public celebrations, even for Holy Week and Easter, we should take advantage of the ways we can use our Sunday and daily missals to stay in touch with the Church and with one another. Let me say at the outset: It is important to realize that we are not trying to ‘say Mass without Father’ — not at all. But as Pope Francis has recently explained, Easter can’t be moved, and so, we need to celebrate it as best we can when it actually falls. With that in mind, all of the suggestions that follow are in addition to participating in Mass by livestream or television.

Palm Sunday

  1. The traditions around Palm Sunday are deep in my soul. I have been folding branches for over 50 years, so this year will be difficult just for that reason. However, there are different traditions around this day. Ukrainian Catholics, where I come from in Canada, made use of pussy willows instead of palms. Most people in Italy use olive branches cut from their own yards. If you read the Gospel carefully, you’ll notice that it doesn’t explicitly mention palms — it just refers to tree branches. This year, if you have trees of your own, cut a few branches from trees that are budding, and bring those in. While they will not be blessed, if you preserve them, they will be a powerful memory of this most extraordinary year. You can sing or recite, even listen online to the songs that we sing every year for the procession. You might even make your own procession through various rooms, or around the outside of your home.
  2. All of our missal products include the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew. This reading is broken into parts, so that various readers can take on different roles. This is ideal for use in a family setting, or among a group of friends sharing a moment together online. Take the time to read the Passion as a group.
  3. Refer to my earlier blog on Sundays — and use some of the ideas you’ll find there.
  4. Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week. Establish some ground rules for this week — maybe an hour of silence every day at a specific time — say 3PM, the hour when Jesus died on the Cross, or establish some times of the day when you will come together at home or through social media. It is important that we stay in touch, especially on these most holy days. These might even become customs that you will want to replicate next year, when, God willing, things will be back to normal.

Holy Thursday

  1. The tradition of the washing of feet on Holy Thursday did not begin as a liturgical event. It began in monasteries and convents, as a reminder that the leader of the community was the servant of all. There is absolutely no reason why you could not have some form of the foot washing at home, using some of the music and prayers from this part of your missals.
  2. Online Adoration is not the same as being present, but it is better than nothing. After you participate in the liturgy of Holy Thursday remotely, try to spend some time in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
  3. If you have access to the internet, you could do a virtual version of an old Roman custom. The tradition was to visit several churches (four or seven are the numbers I’ve heard) where you could spend some time in prayer, using the prayers for Adoration in your missal. Pray for some particular intercession at each church, then move on to the next. It should not be too difficult to visit a number of churches (virtually) tonight. This is one of my favorite customs of Holy Thursday, and I commend even this virtual version for your prayer life.

Good Friday

  1. See what I suggested concerning the Passion on Palm Sunday — the same advice falls here, except that it is the Gospel of John. The full text is in all OCP missals.
  2. Take some time to pray for all the categories of people listed in the solemn intercessions in your missals. Special prayers for the Pope, the Bishop, and those who are joining the Church this year are in order, as it will be so different from what they expected.
  3. Every Catholic home should have a crucifix on the wall. In my home, it is the cross that hung in my grandparents kitchen. So, it is not only a sign of faith, but a precious family heirloom. If you have inherited a sick call cross, you will notice that the crucifix comes off the front and can stand in the base. Whatever your home crucifix looks like, make that the centerpiece of your home today. Spend time — as much as you can — between noon and 3PM reading the Passion and saying prayers. Sing, recite and listen to hymns from the section of your missal dedicated to Good Friday or to the Holy Cross. In many countries, but not generally in the U.S., 3PM is the traditional time for the Good Friday celebration.
  4. Again, because we cannot receive Communion, spend some time thanking God for all the times you have received, and be grateful, even now, that this is a temporary interruption, that the Eucharist will return, and we will be able to celebrate Communion again.

Holy Saturday

  1. Holy Saturday is supposed to be a quiet day anyways, so observing times of silence should be a goal in every home.
  2. A Slavic custom is to bring the foods for the Easter meal to church for a blessing. A great alternative would be to speak or sing some of the songs of blessing and of feasting (in your missal) over the foods you will use for your Easter meal.
  3. Keep vigil on Saturday night. If the weather cooperates, have a bonfire, read some of the readings from the Easter Vigil, and pray in thanksgiving. Christ is risen, even in this strange year.
  4. If you have holy water at home, bless yourselves and give thanks for the gift of your baptism. Some of the songs for Christian Initiation in OCP missals make a great reflection on the saving power of the sacrament. Make special prayer for a new Pentecost — a descent of the Holy Spirit into your family.

Easter Sunday

  1. Again, make use of some or all of the options that I described in my earlier blog about the Sunday.
  2. Today above all, make sure you are in contact with your family and friends, even those you haven’t spoken to in a while. The good news of the Resurrection affects us all. Anything we can do to bring joy to those we love is time well spent.
  3. Within your household, practice and then use the traditional Easter greeting. The first person says, “The Lord is risen!” The response is “The Lord is risen indeed!” Singing or reciting songs with lots of “Alleluias” is also appropriate today. Almost everyone can at least give “Jesus Christ is risen today!” a try.
  4. Prayer in the evening on Easter Day was considered a normal part of the celebration of Easter in earlier centuries. In Milan, they would make memory of everyone’s Baptism. You can do the same. Again, there is an order for prayer in the evening and there are many baptismal songs in your missals to help with that celebration.

Easter Monday

In my book, Unlocking the Feasts and Seasons of the Liturgical Year, I made a short reference to Dyngus Day. This is celebrated on Easter Monday — and it is to be a time of fun and frolic. It’s sort of a day-long dousing each other with water. Staying within your family groups, or using an appropriate meme on the internet, make sure that you cut loose a bit — we can’t always keep our sad face on, even in this trying time.

I truly hope this helps you all in your Easter celebrations. With God’s help we will get through all of this, and I can only imagine the joy we will feel next year, when we gather to celebrate this holy week.