I have a healthy fear of the coronavirus but one worry is growing more steadily with every newly canceled event: what’s going to happen during Holy Week?
Like many Catholics, Holy Week, and the Triduum, in particular, is my yearly retreat from the rest of the world. The worry that some or all services could be canceled is adding another opportunity to abandon my will to God this Lent.
Holy Week could look very different this year, at least in a handful of dioceses. If liturgical living is already part of your prayer life, you are probably already prepared to celebrate Holy Week and the Triduum in your home. However, many of us might not have been preparing or even think about preparing to celebrate the Triduum in our domestic church. If you’re one of the later, it’s time to reconsider.
Here are 8 simple things to do now to transform your home during Holy Week and the Triduum.
If you can’t attend the liturgy in person, the next best thing will be to watch it at home. Be sure to check the schedules on Catholic-Link, EWTN, and CatholicTV to determine which will work best for you. It is our first step in participating in the Triduum liturgy. However, if you have ever watched a Mass on TV, you probably know that despite how you try it feels a little more like watching than participating. Don’t let this be your only preparation.
You might have some sacred music downloaded already. However, if you don’t want to spend each day of the Triduum trying to find the appropriate songs, create separate playlists for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. If you find that you don’t have many appropriate songs for one of these days, download at least 4 to 5 so you can fill your home with music during times of prayer. Your Good Friday playlist would be appropriate for most of Holy Saturday, before switching to the beautiful music of Resurrection.
3. Say Prayers Specific To Each Day
Much of your daily prayer will probably remain the same on the days of the Triduum: rosary, Liturgy of the Hours, daily reflection. Catholic-Link will post prayers specifically for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter in the days to come. You could also consider purchasing a prayer book like Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers or Prayers for the Domestic Church. A few extra prayers for these days will help guide your mind, heart, and spirit for each day.
4. Attend A Retreat At Home
In addition to the free online retreats you can find here, look for a televised parish mission or try this Holy Week Retreat with Fr. Pablo Straub. Because so many retreats and events are being cancelled, there will be plenty of opportunities online. Take advantage of the quite to meditate.
Don’t underestimate the power of the nose. The smell of incense is powerful and will instantly transform our home when you watch a televised service, pray the rosary, or walk the stations of the cross. You can buy church incense but if your home isn’t as spacious and open as your church the smoke might be a little overbearing. You would also have to purchase charcoal to burn it. Incense scented candles are a great alternative.
6. Purple Fabric
Veiling images in the home during Passiontide has been growing in popularity but it’s far from becoming common. You don’t have to veil all of your images to make a significant impact on Good Friday. Just by veiling your crucifix before going to bed on Holy Thursday can be a great way to observe Good Friday. While watching the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion, you can unveil your crucifix so those at home can venerate it.
7. Holy Water
On Easter, we renew our Baptismal promises. If we’re in a situation where we can only watch the Easter Vigil and Easter morning Mass on television, being able to bless ourselves and family with holy water after renewing our Baptismal promises will go a long way in helping us to feel more involved.
In addition, if you’re of Eastern European descent, you likely participate in the tradition of the blessing of the food on Holy Saturday. If you have holy water on hand, you can do this yourself on Holy Saturday.
8. Make Traditional Food
We’re not going to go through all the meals you could have for Easter. Likely, you have that planned already. However, a terrific way to make Spy Wednesday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday a major celebration at home are with traditional foods that will connect you more deeply with the universal Church.
On Spy Wednesday and Holy Thursday, try making the Czech bread called little Judas. This rope shaped bread resembles a noose to remind us of the betrayal and hopelessness of Judas.
There are a few traditional Holy Thursday dinner routes you can take. In places like Germany and Slovakia, Holy Thursday is nicknamed Green Thursday. Eating a meal made of green vegetables like split pea soup would be appropriate. Spinach dishes are also very popular.
Since it is said Jesus was celebrating the Passover, another option for Holy Thursday is to make a few dishes from a Passover seder. If you are eating meatless meals through Holy Week, matzo ball soup is a delicious and simple option. You can also add roasted potatoes or potato latkes to make the meal a little more hearty.
On Good Friday, you’ll be fasting. You’ll eat one meat free meal and two smaller snacks. Hot cross buns are the traditional Good Friday breakfast.
I pray that Holy Week and the Triduum continue as planned in all the dioceses around the world. But being unprepared to observe the holiest days at home if services and Masses were canceled in my diocese would only increase my disappointment.
And what if there aren’t cancelations? Are you overpreparing for nothing? Unlike stocking up on pasta and toilet paper at Cosco, preparing to live liturgically during Holy Week will be a boost to your prayer life and enrich your Easter.
As with every Holy Week, I want to retreat from the world as much as possible. I want to grow closer to Jesus. Too many parables have made it clear that I need to be prepared. Too many to ignore.