Next week will be a very strange Holy Week. This year there will be no public Chrism Mass or washing of feet on Maundy Thursday, no public veneration of the cross on Good Friday, no public Easter Vigil. But what we can do is live Holy Week at home. We can live-stream Masses and the Good Friday liturgy, perhaps Stations of the Cross too, and we can do our best to live it from home. Here are some tips on how to enter into the spirit of the week from home:
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 for just £7.95.
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?
Observe the rituals of the Triduum at home as part of a liturgy
Whether you’re 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, gather together at 3 pm, the time Jesus died, and using a crucifix you have at home, venerate it yourselves. 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 easily be done at home.
You might like to gather together everyone in your household on the evening of Holy Saturday to read all or some of the readings. 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.
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.
If you prefer worship music, this Lent playlist might guide you through Holy Week, or this Blessed Lent playlist from the U.S. Catholic ministry Blessed is She. Meanwhile, get you head into Good Friday with this playlist or this alternative from Blessed is She. Then when Easter Sunday comes round and you want to feel like it’s time to celebrate, here is an Easter Sunday playlist or check out this one with lots of new and current worship songs.
Pray the Stations of the Cross
Most of us would pray the Stations of the Cross at church with our parish, but now that’s not possible we 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. We’ll be praying two Stations every day throughout Holy Week from St John Henry Newman on the Hozana prayer platform, and you can either get the stations by email or via the app/website.
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, or head over to this London parish’s online spiritual resources for a Zoom link to pray Stations of the Cross.
Examine your conscience
Most of us don’t have Confession available to us right now, but we can still examine our consciences at home and beg God’s forgiveness for them. 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. It should be noted that this does not mean that mortal sins will be forgiven, however, and they should still be confessed to a priest in the sacrament of reconciliation at the soonest available opportunity. You can examine your conscience using one provided in The CTS Holy Week Missal, or use this Brief Examination of Conscience.
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 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. This video is a helpful guide on how to live-stream:
You might also like to live-stream with a religious order, so there is a congregation rather than just a priest. This makes it feel a bit more like Mass. Take a look at this schedule for options or try out the Dominican Sisters of St Joseph. Follow the Mass from home with The CTS Holy Week Missal.
Go to adoration
Okay, how do you go to adoration when the churches are closed and public worship is suspended? 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.
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.