How to Do Holy Week

path through the woodsHoly 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.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you for acknowledging those of us at work or on a busy schedule that does not allow us space to reflect and pray more deeply this holiest of weeks. I found myself listening to christian instrumentals to quiet me down in between meetings while i work at my desk. It was very soothing and allowed me to reflect on the holy words of worship as i worked.

  2. Vinita, your gentle guidance offers me abundant introspective, life-giving pauses that lead to moments that lead to spiritual bread. Your photos of the paths remind me of your long-ago trip to England when you captured images of many paths, which you shared with us in Days of Deepening Friendships. *sigh* and *smile* Sweet memory.

  3. Last fall I made plans to be on vacation tour of Portugal with my husband and adult son without realizing I’d be away during Holy Week. I fretted about it when I realized I’d be away from my church. It’s my son’s only time off, so I treasure vacation time with him. Thank you Vinita, for giving me ways to keep this week holy while being locked in to a busy tour group itinerary.

  4. Thank you for those suggestions. They really helped me as I often think I don,t knowhow to go about doing Holy Week. It is good to be reminded of those things . That they can be home based. That we don,t have to strain to try to ahve an experience!

  5. Holy Week always reminds me of walking the Stations of the Cross through the souk in the old city of Jerusalem during the Muslim new year. The streets were crowded, we straggled through the market dragging our cross and struggling to stay together and to participate in the prayers. Some observers gawked, some respectfully gave way, some jeered. Ranks of automatic-weapon armed Israeli soldiers marched shoulder to shoulder through the lanes, forcing all to press against the side walls to let them pass. How very reminiscent of the gospel telling of Jesus carrying his cross. Today I thank God for the interference to my holy week practices that remind me that ALL is sacred. All is good. All is God.

  6. Such simple & inspiring guidance that can assist us in our prayer. Thank you, Vinita, you are gift to us!
    Ethelyn/NYC

  7. Thank you for this and all the reflections you share. Your writings and videos really resonate with me. I took my morning walk this morning with Jesus and will do it again tomorrow.

  8. Trying hard to walk with Jesus during Holy Week. There are moments. Yet, I think of my husband, daughter and son who passed away… each too soon, and I am filled with sadness and longing.

  9. Thank you Vinita for your grace filled message of walking with Jesus during Holy Week! Such a beautiful reflection of keeping this Time holy and true.
    Happy Easter!

  10. Thank You, the prayers are great, very relaxing,
    to, recite,
    I will bring them with me to my CLC group to share.
    The Ignatius excercisess, are good also.

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