Have you started thinking about Holy Week yet?

It’s next week already. And while perhaps it seems as though Lent has taken forever to get through (oh, how I crave the sweetener I gave up on Ash Wednesday!), Holy Week is just around the corner.

It’s time to start thinking about what approach you’ll take to make this Holy Week different from all the others. It’s time to think about hos to really LIVE Holy Week.

First step: Consider what you will do at the end of each of the Holy Week services. If you’re like most of us, you head home and leave all that church-y stuff back in the pews. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s good that you attended. But, Holy Week can be so much more.

Let me explain. The services of the Triduum – the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, Veneration of the Cross on Good Friday, Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, and Mass on Easter Sunday – are only part of all that transpired during those days in the life of our Lord.

After the Last Supper, Jesus and the Apostles didn’t just go home and crawl into bed. The Apostles were scattered, scared out of their wits. Jesus was in prison, probably mistreated, and very aware of what was gong to happen the next day.

On Good Friday morning, he was taken before Pilate, mocked, judged, beaten, spat upon, crowned with thorns, scourged, and laden with the penalty of death by crucifixion. He wasn’t just sitting around playing dice with the other prisoners.

After the crucifixion, he was laid in the tomb. This must have been a horribly dark time for those he left behind – the Blessed Mother, the Apostles, and the women who had followed him so faithfully for the past three years.

And Jesus? He descended into hell. Sounds shocking, doesn’t it? Here’s how the Catechism explains it:

Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” – Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek – because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God. Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”: “It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.” Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.

It’s tempting to relax after Good Friday services and jump right into Easter preparations. But, if we do that, we miss a very important aspect of Holy Week.

All of Holy Saturday, Jesus still was in the tomb. The world was still, so to speak, yet grieving over the Passion and Crucifixion and in hopeful anticipation of the Resurrection. If we just go about our business getting ready to celebrate on Easter, we miss a rich opportunity to take part in that stillness.

And then, of course, on Sunday morning – Easter joy!

There are many ways that we can further enhance that experience of living Holy Week with our Lord. Here are nine ideas:

  1. Make a prayer corner (if you don’t have one already) and drape it with a purple cloth. You might want to drape a purple cloth over the Crucifix, too, as some Catholic churches do.
  2. Read the appropriate Scripture passages for the various events, especially the ones that weren’t included in the services.
  3. Burn a votive candle in your prayer corner from Good Friday evening to Easter Sunday morning to remind you of Jesus’ time in the tomb. Of course, safety takes priority – don’t leave a candle burning if no one’s at home to watch it!
  4. Maintain silence in the house from Holy Thursday through Easter morning. Keep all the gizmos turned off unless it’s dire necessity – radios, televisions, computers, phones, etc.
  5. Keep the blinds and/or curtains closed from Holy Thursday evening until Easter Sunday morning.
  6. Eat simply during those days (remember, it’s still Lent). You might want to try your hand at a mock Passover supper on Holy Thursday. The meaning will make up for what’s lacking in authenticity.
  7. Say the Stations of the Cross, particularly on Good Friday. Try to picture each of the stations, imagining that you actually were there. You might want to spread them out, saying one station every few hours between Holy Thursday and Easter morning.
  8. After Easter Vigil or Easter Sunday morning, change the cloth in your prayer corner to white or pink. Take the drape off the Crucifix. Add an Easter lily or candle and arrange things to reflect the Resurrection.
  9. Repeat the Creed and give thanks to God. Christ is risen!

Attending the Triduum services is amazing. We are so blessed to have the beautiful traditions of our Catholic Faith. In and of themselves, they are incredible, but they become even more incredible when we live them at home as well as in the pew.

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