This week, we cannot go to the Holy Thursday Mass. We will not witness the washing of the feet (which won't be held at Holy Thursday Masses this year) or participate in the Passion, pews brimming with people and reminding us, we are more than the ones who come every week.
We will not experience the solemn quiet of Good Friday when we go at three o’clock and recognize because it is inescapable, the absence. Something is missing. We’re supposed to feel that difference. This week, the Holy Week, with the palms and the whole community coming together will still happen but differently, and it will be a willful decision to be part of it or not.
When you take your daily walk, read the Stations of the Cross or say the rosary. Contemplative prayer right now is the closest we come to the Mass outside of watching it, and the walks provide you a way to take yourself away from the mundane and the four walls which sometimes feel like they are closing in, and place yourself in the presence of God.
When you fire up your computer, first things first, watch the daily mass. It’s a way of again, immersing yourself in the bigger world than the news or work, and a way of making sure each day does not become merely a day of the week, but remains Holy Week. Stand, sit and kneel as if you were in the pew if possible, it will help attune your whole self (and I know, watching the Mass is oddly distracting) to what is happening.
Read the readings at dinner. It’s again, a way to bring everyone into the Holy Week. Be mindful of the food you serve on Holy Thursday. Harken if you can through the meal, to the time of Jesus, and something of what would have been served. Ask each person at the table to think about and really imagine what became the Last Supper.
Watch the Passion of the Christ, Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, The Prince of Egypt, The Son of God, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Lord of the Rings or some film that highlights the season as a family. Don’t make it a command performance but pop the popcorn and see how many show up and stay. I also love The Way, There be Dragons and Les Miserables. All of them hit the right note.
Wash your family’s feet. Set a day (and plan this ahead of time), but read the Gospel about the washing of the feet, and talk to your family about how that’s what a family does. It holds together not by saying who is the best, but by serving, by washing each other’s feet. Start with each other as husband and wife and go around to each child. It’s a way to again, show how the domestic church is to echo the whole church in its service.
Decorate the house for Easter with lights. Easter is a season of light and joy, and right now, we feel our need for light and joy more keenly than ever. The other day, a neighbor took their portable outdoor fire pit to the front driveway and sat around it as a family just enjoying the evening. We couldn’t join them because of social distancing, but seeing it and smelling the fire, seeing people sitting out around it enjoying themselves, fed something inside we’re all missing, the feeling of community. We are a community even when we’re far apart, so make your home a visible sign of that invisible reality with lights, with music, and with your own family for the beginning of our Easter season.
Lastly, this week, we’re being given the odd gift of time to experience more of Holy Week if we seek it. We will have the opportunity to watch any number or perhaps for some, for the first time, all of the Triduum. We were not blessed to be there then, when all of this happened in the Holy Land on that great and terrible week. We are blessed now, to have the Church’s gift of this Liturgy, from the evening of Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday.
The stay at home orders of Washington D.C., Virginia and Maryland have taken away many of our distractions and reasons why we can’t watch these liturgical events that make up the summit of the liturgical year. If you’ve never quite felt like you “finished” Lent properly, this is the way to have a big spiritual push at the end of this Lenten season.
Have a great Holy Week.
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