I love Holy Week. The final week leading up to Easter is a special time, when we commemorate the Passion and death of Jesus Christ before celebrating His glory and triumph at Easter. Many special services and liturgies mark this week. For instance, there is Tenebrae, a service of psalms and prayer that sets a mood of darkness as we journey towards Christ’s passion. There is also the Chrism Mass, where holy oils are blessed in each diocese for the coming year’s use. At the Triduum liturgies, we have to the opportunity to meditate on Christ's final hours before the Crucifixion. In addition to all of the formal services in churches, there are also a variety of activities that families do within their homes. Whether it’s making “Easter cookies,” hiding pieces of silver around the house, or preparing foods for the Easter celebration, there many excellent ways for families to mark the liturgical year together.
However, I have found that it is easy for all of these worthwhile practices, special services, and preparations to make us very busy. We bounce between prayer services and liturgies and think about everything that we want to get done prior to Easter. In fact, we can find ourselves too preoccupied to actually reflect on Christ’s sacrifice! In an effort to be still and make Holy Week more fruitful, I’ve tried different methods over the years to achieve some extra silence. Here are three techniques that I’ve found particularly helpful in this endeavor:
1. Make time for silent prayer each day.
With all the hustle and bustle that comes during Holy Week, I have observed that intentionally creating time for silent prayer is vital. Even just 5-10 minutes to silently reflect on Our Lord's Passion can be very beneficial! Consider setting your alarm to go off earlier in the morning, praying instead of listening to radio in the car, or instituting a period of "quiet time" in your home at some point during the day so that you can meditate on the events of Holy Week.
2. Place devotionals and books for reflection around your home.
I can have the best of intentions to read about Christ's Passion during Holy Week, but if the materials to do this are tucked away in a drawer or on a bookshelf, then I probably will forget to use them. So, take those booklets for the Stations of the Cross and place them on your kitchen table. Grab your Bible, bookmark one of the Passion narratives, and place it next to your favorite reading chair. If you create convenient opportunities to use these resources, then it is more likely that you will pick them up to read throughout the week!
3. Remember that Easter lasts for 50 days, and plan accordingly.
The time for rejoicing and festivities continues far beyond the Easter Sunday celebrations. According to Universal Norms on the Liturgical Year and the General Roman Calendar,
"The fifty days from the Sunday of the Resurrection to Pentecost Sunday are celebrated in joy and exultation as one feast day, indeed as one "great Sunday." These are the days above all others in which the Alleluia is sung."
Keeping the length of the Easter season in mind as we plan our activities can be very good. Instead of feeling the need to fit all of our Easter preparations into Holy Week, perhaps we can consider spreading our celebrations across the season of Easter. We could try to cram in egg hunts, egg dyeing, and cookie-baking on Easter Sunday, but this may require quite a bit of extra shopping and preparation during Holy Week. Alternatively, perhaps we could do these activities during the Octave, or at other times in the Easter season! This way, we will have fewer tasks on our "To Do" lists during Holy Week, enabling us to spend more time in thoughtful prayer and silence.
Regardless of whether you have experienced fruitful prayer and growth this Lent or not, Holy Week is a chance for all of us to more passionately seek Christ and reflect on His great love for us. Are there any particular practices that help you to create extra silence and prayer during Holy Week?
Copyright 2017 AnneMarie Miller
About the Author
A bibliophile, wife, mother of young children, and lover of the Liturgy, AnneMarie Miller enjoys exploring the manifold—and quirky—ways in which God speaks. She can often be found reading books to her kids, burrowing her toes in the red Oklahoma dirt, or sipping black coffee. Her reflections on Catholicism, literature, and hope can be found on her blog, Sacrifice of Love.