Holy Week is a solemn week of extra prayer and fasting. It involves the Triduum: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. During those three days we recall—and through our prayer participate in—Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples, his arrest, trial, and execution, the long day of silence (Holy Saturday) while his body rested in the grave, and his Resurrection on Easter. The many readings of Scripture surrounding the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ give us a lot of material for reflection and prayer.
Unfortunately, the rest of the world does not stop or slow down to give us extra time for all this liturgy and church attendance. We may be fortunate to have an employer who gives us Good Friday as a day off. But daily life continues, and our minds spin with scores of other stories that threaten to obscure the Jesus story.
How can we maintain some realm of holy quiet? How to “do” Holy Week, especially if we will not be participating in all the special church liturgies at this time?
Here are just a few suggestions. I hope you’re helped by at least one or two of them.
- Spend a little time each day listening to music that helps you slow down. It doesn’t matter what kind of music—hymns, jazz, folksong, symphony pieces, songs with meaningful words, or pieces that are instrumental only—as long as the listening helps you breathe more slowly and go to a place deeper in your spirit.
- Prepare at least one meal with special care for the people in your home (or, if you live alone, for you and a guest or two), and make certain all of you sit down together to eat it. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. Maybe there’s a soup recipe from Great-Grandma, or a certain homemade bread that sets the tone by sending fragrance through the house.
- Choose one of the Passion narratives—from any of the four Gospels—and read it aloud to yourself over the course of the week. Don’t try to learn anything new or have a profound experience; simply read the story, asking God to help this story live in you better this year than it ever has before.
- While you’re sitting—maybe at the end of the day, trying to unwind in front of the television or in a favorite chair—try drawing aspects of Holy Week. Use whatever paper and pen(cil) is available and express something about symbols that are meaningful to you: cross, lily, bread, chalice, table, garden, hands, faces, a road…
Finally, you might find some time this week to go on a spiritual pilgrimage with Jesus, wherever you are. Reflect on how to do that in the video below.
For more on praying with the Stations of the Cross, as mentioned in the video, start with Unlock the Stations of the Cross, Examen-Style by Gary Jansen, author of Station to Station: An Ignatian Journey through the Stations of the Cross.