Fr. Jim Phalan, C.S.C., shares how to make the observance of Holy Week a personal experience for the whole family.
“Why is this night different from all other nights?” asks the child as his family celebrates the Passover supper, as all observant Jewish families have done each year for 3300 years—since Moses led the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt. This is not merely a common remembering; each Jewish person at the supper is to take the event as present, as a personal experience of the liberation. This is a way of remembering is that is woven into the Holy Scriptures: as God’s saving works are remembered, they indeed become present to us. God continues to save His people. In the Old Testament, the ritual of the Passover is the most intense example of this kind of remembrance.
After about 1300 Passover celebrations, a group of disciples gathered around their Rabbi to celebrate this great event once again. Perhaps John, as the youngest of the group, might have been the one to ask, “Why is this night different?” The Gospels make it very clear it was no mere coincidence that the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord occurred at the time of the celebration of the Jewish Passover. Jesus intended to become the Lamb of God whose sacrificial death would work our true liberation: from sin and death. We are told how Jesus longed to eat this Passover with His disciples, the night before He was to suffer. Quite conscious of the full significance of that moment, Jesus blessed and broke the bread and shared the wine. This is My Body; this is My Blood of the new and Eternal Covenant. Do this in memory of Me. He fully meant what He said. The next day He freely and knowingly gave up life to save us.
The Jewish Passover reached its fulfillment in the Paschal Mystery – Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection – which Christians have celebrated ever since as living memory. We celebrate it as present, an event in which we personally participate—each and every time we celebrate the Holy Eucharist, certainly, and, in a particularly intense way, each year when Christians celebrate the great Triduum (“three days”) that begins with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday, continues through the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday, attains its high point at the Easter Vigil, and concludes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday.
It is a celebration all Christians should live fully each year because through it we are offered the fullness of life as the grace of salvation is poured forth for the world! In Christ’s Passion we are reconciled with God and with one another.
It is not to be a time of business as usual! Will you receive what the Lord offers you? How? Be present to it. In this living remembrance, open your heart to God.
A few suggestions for celebrating Holy Week:
- Note that, for the Jews, the celebration of the Passover in the home is essential! Our Holy Week, too, is to be celebrated in the home as well as in our Churches!
- Your children will be drawn into the Triduum if you share how you live it and how important it is to you!
- CatholicMom.com, FamilyRosary.com, and other Catholic websites will have plenty of Holy Week family activities to share. On TV there will be plenty of good Christian family films to view together and discuss.
- Otherwise, try to limit your screen time, especially social media!
- Celebrate Holy Week with the Christian Community: in as much as you can, go to Church and if you cannot, participate online.
- Go to Confession, especially if you haven’t yet received the sacrament this Lent! Bring your kids along, even those who have not yet received it, so they’ll begin to see what it’s about.
- Try participating in the Triduum liturgies as a family. The Easter Vigil, Saturday night, maybe long for the littlest ones, but give it a try. There are a lot of powerful rituals and symbols that, if explained to them a bit, the kids may find fascinating.
- The most important thing is to open your hearts and to walk through the week with Jesus and Mary. The Holy Spirit will show the way and do the rest.
Copyright 2022 Fr. James Phalan, C.S.C.
Image: Holy Cross Family Ministries
About the Author
Father James Phalan, C.S.C. is a Catholic priest, member of the Congregation of the Holy Cross, and the National Director of Family Rosary. He served as a missionary for many years as part of the Family Rosary team, travelling the globe to help people come to Jesus through Mary. Now he is happy to be serving back at home in the USA!