Keeping Holy Week Holy
It seems like only yesterday we were surprised by the fact that, yet again, Lent had snuck up on us, and we weren’t ready to make our Lenten sacrifice. Ash Wednesday was upon us, we hadn’t given Lent any thought, and we were left scrambling to decide what to sacrifice. We all know that nothing good comes when that happens, we fall back on the old standbys (chocolate, chips, …), which seem doomed to fail from the start – just like last Lent.
Here we are, 5 weeks later, and now Holy Week has snuck up on us. The holiest time of the year. Yet, if we have prepared for Holy Week the same way we have prepared for Lent (as in, not at all), then we can expect to get the same out of our Holy Week… nothing at all.
Like any major event in our lives – we need to plan ahead.
Since Holy Week is upon us, I thought to share a couple of ideas on how to make Holy Week a time of prayerful preparation for the great feast of Easter.
Not only is Easter the greatest feast of the liturgical year, it is also a time for family and friends to get together to celebrate. Everyone loves a grand feast surrounded by loved ones, with laughter and merriment as the sound track, and the egg hunt as the opening act. A day of this magnitude requires lots of planning and preparation – get as much done beforehand as possible. Having everything ready to go before Holy Week begins will not only allow you to relax and enjoy the great feast, but it will also allow you to concentrate on the totality of Easter from Passion to Resurrection.
There is no possible way to meditate on the great gift of the Eucharist at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday if one is scurrying around town for last minute items before all the stores shut down for the weekend. You will not be able to ponder on the magnitude of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross if your mind is mulling over Sunday’s menu. Finally, if there is any Sunday you should linger on your knees in thanksgiving and wonderment at the God’s greatness instead of rushing home to get the ham in the oven, it’s Easter Sunday.
As Catholics, we are called to avail ourselves of the sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year. Normally, it is strongly encouraged to make a good Confession during the season of Lent. Many parishes will organize an evening penitential service, with a liturgy of the word, followed by Confession, where the pastors of neighbouring parishes will come to help out (and I’m sure the favour is returned). Annually the Archdiocese of Toronto will have a Day of Confession, where parish priests will spend the majority of the day in the Confessional, negating the excuse that regularly scheduled Reconciliation doesn’t fit into your routine.
If for whatever reason you haven’t made it to Confession this lent (like myself), make plans to get there this weekend – times are usually posted on your parish website.
Life is busy enough without throwing a major holiday into the mix. I find that if I don’t have a plan for a daily prayer routine, I’ll find myself dropping exhausted into bed without having once stopped to talk with our Lord. If we really want to take away some spiritual nourishment this Holy Week, then it’s time to step it up a notch.
A few ideas of how to supplement your prayer life during Holy Week might include:
· Praying the Sorrowful Mysteries daily
· Daily meditation on the Stations of the Cross (or just a few each day)
· Praying the Divine Mercy chaplet at 3pm daily
The idea is to focus on Christ’s sacrifice for us so as to make the magnitude of His Passion and Resurrection that much more powerful.
Our faith is a family affair, and it’s our responsibility to get our spouses, children, parents, brothers & sisters, etc. to heaven. With this in mind, we need to keep them in the loop of our Holy Week plans. First and foremost, this is to encourage them to grow closer to Christ through a deeper meditation on his Passion and Resurrection. Of equal importance, is to communicate these plans to those closest to you who will be affected by them so that they can be respectful of your own preparation for Good Friday and Easter. There are enough distractions going on in the preparations for the greatest feast of the year, they don’t need to be complicated by any petty disputes that arise from miscommunications and misunderstandings.
The seven days between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday are meant to be a flurry of spiritual activity and not dedicated to a worldly business. It is a time to prepare our souls for the magnitude of Christ’s Passion, and not simply our homes for the multitudes who will come for dinner. By being ready for Holy Week, we will be able to properly meditate upon the greatness of Christ’s sacrifice and His triumph over death.
May you and your family have a prayerful and prayer-filled Holy Week that truly merits its name.