If you’re unable to get to Mass this Holy Week and Easter, or if you’re missing the traditional customs that we can’t have during the pandemic, here are some tips on how to enter into the spirit of the week from home.
1. Follow the Mass readings from home
Not being physically at Mass can be incredibly distressing, particularly during Holy Week and yes, reading the readings at home is not the same as being at Mass. But this is such an important week for the Church that it’s vital we read them ourselves to recall what Jesus went through for us. It will also give us some semblance of normality.
You can find the readings in The CTS Holy Week Missal, which has everything you need for this holy week.
2. Meditate on the Mass readings
With all this extra time, we can draw closer to God by meditating on the readings. You can find helpful reflections by Scripture scholar Dom Henry Wansbrough OSB in The CTS Holy Week Missal, or you can just read it over a few times yourself prayerfully. Is there a particular theme, word, or sentence that strikes you? What is God trying to tell you? What must Jesus have felt?
3. Observe the rituals of the Triduum at home as part of a liturgy
Whether by live-streaming at home or not, why not observe the rituals of the Triduum as part of a liturgy at home? On Maundy Thursday, someone can volunteer to have their feet washed and another to wash them, to emulate the humility of Jesus at the Last Supper.
On Good Friday, venerate your crucifix. One person can also process in with it and sing (or say), “Behold the wood of the cross”, while everyone else responds, “Come, let us adore”. When the Passion is read aloud on Good Friday, each part is often read by different people and this is something that can also easily be done at home if you can’t make it to Mass.
Normally at the Easter Vigil there are seven readings, some compulsory and some optional, plus a First Reading and Gospel. This is also something you can replicate at home, whether as part of your household or on your own. If you have multiple candles in your home, everyone could light their own candle from the main one to imitate lighting candles from the Paschal Candle at the Easter Vigil, and then one person could process in with that first candle singing (or saying), “The light of Christ”, while everyone else responds, “Thanks be to God.” Later, ring a bell if you have one and sing the Gloria joyfully.
Of course, to retain the meaning of these rituals they’re best done as part of a liturgy. The liturgy is split into four parts: Introductory Rites, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Eucharist, Concluding Rites. Using a missal, you can incorporate these rituals into a liturgy which uses the Introductory Rites and Liturgy of the Word. For a breakdown of what is included in each part of the Mass, see this helpful guide.
4. Listen to appropriate music
Music can really help you enter into the spirit of a season. If you like Gregorian Chant and classical music, your Lenten music might be this album from the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles. Some Easter music might be welcome on Holy Saturday evening and on Easter Sunday, for example Westminster Cathedral Choir has an album on Spotify (which is a free service available for those who have the internet), which includes the Exsultet and other music you might remember from the Easter Vigil. They also have an album containing all the music from a Westminster Cathedral Easter Sunday Mass.
There are also some great Spotify playlists if you prefer worship music:
- Lent Songs and Songs for Good Friday & Holy Week are playlists by Salt of the Sound that can guide you through Holy Week
- Blessed Lent and Good Friday are excellent playlists from the U.S. Catholic ministry Blessed is She
- Then when Easter Sunday comes round and you want to feel like it’s time to celebrate, try Hallelujah is Our Song by Catholics speaker and podcaster Heather Khym, Easter worship songs from Salt of the Sound or EASTER WORSHIP by Worship Together which includes lots of current worship songs.
5. Pray the Stations of the Cross
Most of us would pray the Stations of the Cross at church with our parish, but if that’s not possible you can still do it at home. This is a really important devotion for Holy Week because then more than ever we need to meditate on Jesus’ Passion. Sign up to pray two Stations every day throughout Holy Week from St John Henry Newman on the Hozana prayer platform, or if you’re a fan of live-streaming, some churches are live-streaming their Stations of the Cross so you can join from home. Check out this schedule on ChurchServices.tv to find out when they’re available for streaming.
If you prefer to pray the Stations offline, use our Stations of the Cross booklets or The CTS Holy Week Missal.
6. Examine your conscience
If you can’t get to confession right now, you can still examine your consciences at home and beg God’s forgiveness for your sins. Jesus died for our sins so the least we can do in return is be aware of them and come to him asking for mercy, promising to go to confession as soon as possible.
It should be noted that this is not a substitution for confession, however, and if you’re aware of having committed a grave sin it’s even more important to make the effort to get to confession as soon as possible. You can examine your conscience using one provided in The CTS Holy Week Missal, or use this Brief Examination of Conscience.
7. Live-stream Palm Sunday Mass and the Triduum
You may not find live-streaming Mass on a Sunday helpful, but we recommend doing it during Holy Week if you can’t physically get to Mass, because the Masses and Good Friday service are so different and special. It’s helpful when live-streaming to set up some kind of “altar” e.g. with a crucifix and a Missal in front of the screen you’ll be streaming it on. Rather than sitting on the sofa, consider sitting on a hardback chair and using cushions as kneelers, to enter more prayerfully into Mass. Try not to do anything through it that you wouldn’t normally do in Mass – so don’t chat to your family, use your phone, eat, or come in your pyjamas. Follow the Mass from home with The CTS Holy Week Missal..
8. Go to adoration
How do you go to adoration if you can’t get to church or if your church doesn’t have it at the moment? As with Mass, you can go to adoration online. We really recommend spending some time in adoration this Holy Week, perhaps by yourself or with your household, and behave as you would during adoration at church, for example praying silently or reading Scripture.
You can also sit there and talk to Jesus about how you feel about the lockdown, or about the pain of not being able to get to Mass in Holy Week, or ask Him to help you understand His Passion. He may not be physically present in your room, but He is physically present there behind the camera and He will not let the physical distance between you be a physical barrier. If you want something to read to keep your prayers on track during a Holy Hour at home, try our Eucharistic adoration resources.
9. Celebrate Easter appropriately when it comes
Easter during lockdown can still be full of celebration. While times may be tough, there is a great cause for celebration on Easter day. Even if we were told on Easter Sunday that coronavirus had miraculously disappeared overnight and that the lockdown was over, that celebration – while immense and an example of God’s glory – would still not be as wonderful as the celebration of our redemption on the day of Our Lord’s resurrection. Pray with the Easter Sunday Gospel, have a nice meal if possible, wear something special, give out Easter eggs if you normally do, and try to live joyfully on that day, in spite of whatever else is going on. If you’re struggling to find Easter joy, ask God to help you and He will surely oblige.