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Tips for celebrating Holy Week

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Growing up, I had mixed feelings when it came to Holy Week. My mom would let us watch TV until Holy Thursday then the TV would be turned off until Easter. I did not understand why I had to give up television when it was a week of vacation. My mom would say you have to sacrifice because Jesus died — clearly this was a concept I did not understand.


But the traditions my mom set for the family, which as a child I resented at times, have become a treasure and tradition I practice on my own now as an adult. I’ve even wondered why the church does not make the Triduum obligatory. Holy Thursday through Easter offer some of the most beautiful liturgies of the year.


Pondering this thought throughout the year, I came to the conclusion that no one would make a wedding day an obligation for the groom or the bride; they show up because they want to be there as an act of love or a profession of love. The Triduum is the same. The bridegroom (Christ) offers his life for his bride (the church) and we come as an act of love, not as an obligation.


The pandemic has made life a little tricky.  If you and your family feel safe, I would encourage you to attend these beautiful liturgies in person. If you do not feel safe to go in person, I would encourage you to participate online. Try to read the Scripture ahead of time. Learn more about Holy Week. “Celebrating a Holy Catholic Easter,” a book written by Father William P. Saunders, pastor of St. Agnes Church in Arlington, has reflections on the customs and devotions of Lent and Easter. You can pick up a copy at Paschal Lamb in Fairfax, which recently was bought by new owners, the St. Agnes parish office or Amazon.


Here are some other ways to make this time more fruitful.


Holy Thursday — In the morning, you can watch the Chrism Mass livestreamed from the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, when Bishop Michael F. Burbidge blesses the oils and the priests renew their priestly promises. Pray for your bishop and priests on this day, and thank them for answering the call to the priesthood.


In the evening, the church commemorates the Last Supper, the institution of the Eucharist and the priesthood. Read over the Jewish Passover meal. Watch the Holy Thursday Mass online or attend in person. Stay for adoration after the Mass or have quiet time to pray and reflect at home. In a spiritual way, keep watch with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. Do the Seven Church pilgrimage, visiting different churches with holy hours, or reflect at home on the Seven Sorrows that pierced Mary’s heart.


Good Friday — Go to the Stations of the Cross or read them at home. Pray through a meditation on the seven last words of Christ. Venerate the cross and don’t forget to fast and abstain from meat. Attend the service in person or online.


Holy Saturday — Bring your Easter foods or baskets to your church for a blessing, if it’s offered, or say your own blessing. Prayers are provided in the book mentioned above. Pray for all those entering the church this day. Attend service online or in person.


Easter Sunday — Rejoice and be glad, for Christ has risen.


Have a Blessed Holy Week.


Piñon is the director of faith formation and evangelization programs for diocesan Office of Faith Formation.




© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021