In any other year, we would all be saying, “Go to church, experience all Holy Week has to offer!” This year, attending in person will not be an option for everyone. Still, we can incorporate the rhythm and customs, the experience and blessings, into Holy Week at home.
Many long to make Holy Week (the days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday) more meaningful. This year any emphasis on new clothes or stressing about things being “perfect” will be missing. Ideas that follow were gathered from here and there to help us enter into Palm Sunday and the Triduum. Pick an activity that resonates the most with you and start there. Use the cross stickers enclosed to mark activities you participate in, like a passport.
Palm Sunday: Going to Jerusalem
To prepare, gather a pitcher of water, a real or homemade palm branch, and locate a version of the John 12:12-16 story. As is custom, we move from space to space, beginning outside your home as you begin reading the story of Jesus arriving in Jerusalem in triumph. Moving inside, continue to hear how Jesus and his friends traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, the eight-day festival celebrating God’s delivering the Israelites out of slavery into freedom. Next, carry the water to the room where you plan to have supper on Thursday evening; this is your Last Supper space. Listen to the story of Jesus sharing bread and wine with his friends. End with the Lord’s Prayer.
A Family Option: hide a small donkey for someone to find and lead the way using Mark 11:1-11.
Maundy Thursday: We Prepare (Triduum Day 1)
Gather a Bible or Book of Common Prayer (BCP), a storage box, dark cloth, cleaning supplies and a version of Psalm 22.
- Stripping of the altar (removing all ornaments, linens, candles, plants, flowers, etc.) is an ancient custom of the Church, marking the way Christ’s life was stripped from him by stripping the altar of all signs of life and beauty. The almost-bare worship space reminds us of the barrenness of life without the hope of Christ that we have through His resurrection. This beautiful and powerful ceremony can also be practiced in the home, as our homes are also places of worship.
- Read Psalm 22 (or just the first two verses). Think about the ancient custom of stripping and washing the altar and how you have observed this tradition in years past, what it symbolizes, and how a household can do a similar stripping in the home – focusing on icons and symbols of faith. Go through the house to gather religious symbols that can be easily moved (crosses, statues, candles, prayer beads, butterflies, etc.), working silently as a sign of respect for the task. Pack these items away in a storage bin. Use dark cloth to drape any other items that are too large or permanent to pack away. At last, remove all items from the table where you plan to eat. Wash the table thoroughly and leave it bare until Easter morning. After all the items have been packed away or covered and the table has been washed, take a moment to notice how your home looks and feels; make the connection between a home without these beautiful and meaningful items and a life without Christ.
- A meatless meal is preferred this night. The setting should be austere and the foods sparse and simple. Appropriate foods include soup, cheese, olives, dried fruit, bread, and wine.
- Washing of the Feet or Hands – You will need a bowl, pitcher of water and towel. Jesus washed the feet of his friends as an act of love, service, and preparation. Take turns washing feet or hands as an act of love and service with a blessing.
Holy and loving God, bless these hands/feet to do your work in the world, to bring peace, love, comfort, hope, and joy to all who are blessed by their touch. Amen.
Holy and loving God, thank you for these hands: hands that have worked; hands that have played; hands that have been clenched in fists of anger and frustration; hands that have soothed the aching bodies and hearts of people in pain; hands that have been held in love. Bless these hands to do your work in the world, to bring peace, love, comfort, hope, and joy to all who are blessed by their touch. Amen.
Good Friday: We Enter In (Triduum Day 2)
Good Friday church services often end in total darkness, leaving worshipers to imagine their lives in the wake of the dark hours after Christ’s crucifixion.
- Enter into Technology Darkness – While functioning in total darkness might not be practical, there is a way to practice living in darkness: go dark with your technology. “Unplug” from noon on Good Friday until noon on Holy Saturday. Turn off (and put away) all cell phones, tablets, game consoles, televisions, radios, and computers for twenty-four hours. Reflect on how disjointed, disconnected, lost, anxious, helpless, or frustrated we can feel without these devices. On that first Good Friday, many lives were turned upside down by Christ’s death: Mary, Martha, James, John, Peter, and Andrew, to name a few. For these people and the other followers of Christ, Good Friday was more than just sad; it was a day of feeling anxious, lost, disconnected, frustrated, and helpless.
Option: How different would our world be if the Story of God had stopped on Good Friday? What would life be like if grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness were not available to us?
- Additional Good Friday Suggestions would be to wear black, the color of mourning. Fast or avoid frivolous eating throughout the day. Let this be a quiet day that keeps fun to a minimum. Do extra good deeds and sacrifices. Go to Stations of the Cross in person if possible, virtually, or use a Stations of the Cross guide at home. Read a story of the passion. Color age-appropriate pictures that reflect the season. Give to your congregation (alms) if you identify the donation specifically as a Good Friday offering for the Middle East. Congregations can then apply for a matching International Outreach Grant (IOG) up to $1,000.
Holy Saturday: We Wait (Triduum Day 3)
Saturday is the third day of the Triduum and recalls when the crucified Christ visited among the dead while his body lay in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Fasting, Holy Saturday, and other preparations end at sunset or with the Easter Vigil. This begins the celebration of Easter. The term vigil comes from the Latin word vigilia, which means “wakefulness,” when the faithful stayed awake to pray and do devotional exercises in anticipation of the feast. The entire celebration of the Easter Vigil takes place at night. It should not begin before nightfall; it should end before daybreak on Sunday.
- Moving through Holy Saturday – Games and puzzles are quiet activities that have the additional benefit of building patience, and part of being patient is learning to be quiet. Take the challenge to not interrupt others and control the tongue until appropriate times.
- The Great Easter Vigil – If possible, plan to attend the diocesan service from Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral virtually or attend a church with a service in person if it is possible to do so safely.
- The Easter Vigil is a long service with many readings. Households with young people might ready Easter-themed quieter activities like coloring pages or challenge them to build a temple out of blocks; any activity that guides and reflects the stories they have heard during Holy Week.
Many diocesan churches plan to host virtual Easter morning services. Without a doubt, they would be so happy to have you “there.” See what is offered online by visiting the diocesan website or follow The Diocese of West Missouri FaceBook page.