By Fr. Sean McDermott
Like all of us, I never thought there would come a time when we literally were not allowed to go to church, and at the start of the stay-at-home measures, I never thought that we would not be allowed to enter church during Holy Week and Easter. Yet here we are. Churches are doing what they can -- Zoom meetings, emails, podcasts, etc. -- and we want to add any help we can.
So, below is a long list of ideas to help you observe Holy Week at home. Some of the ideas are for families to do together, some just personally. Don't get overwhelmed. The most important aspect for Holy Week is to continue the basics: Daily Office and some private prayers. The Lectionary for this week is so well designed, that just those readings provide years worth of meditation!
Before we get started, I want to commend a great site, The Homely Hours. Not only do they have a good post on observing Holy Week as a family at home, they have also posted an insightful piece on observing in isolation. Please check them out and bookmark that site!
-Arts & Faith project from Loyola has many great videos on classical works of art about Holy Week.
-Dr. James Romain has published eight videos that explore the work of Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), focusing on his etchings, paintings, woodcuts of Holy Week. This series not only teaches about art history, but also about how to read Durer's pieces in a devotional mode. Click here for the first video of the series.
-Ken Myers over at Cantica Sacra has a plethora of resources for Holy Week. It would futile for me to add much more t0 what Ken is doing, but I will offer one of my favorite pieces, Rachmaninov's All-Night Vigil.
-Holy Week has inspired so many good poems, but here are a few of my favorites. First off, John Keble has poems for every day of Holy Week in his book, The Christian Year.
-G.K. Chesterton’s “The Donkey”
-Malcolm Guite posts some of his poems each day for Holy Week over on his blog.
- A.E. Housman’s “The Carpenter’s Son”
- Gerard Manley Hopkin’s “No Worst”
- George Herbert’s “The Sacrifice”
-Do you have a favorite? Comment below and share!
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of Holy Week
-Traditionally, these are spring cleaning days! The idea is that you get your house ready for the sacred Triduum (aka Maundy Thursday, Good Friday & Holy Saturday) by Wednesday evening.
- All the crucifixes, crosses, icons and artwork would be covered for the rest of Holy Week so you can cover all yours at home. Start with purple cloth if you have some handy. On Good Friday, you may change these to black.
-This printable San Damiano cross & workbook was recommended to me by a friend, and it looks great for kids and adults.
-On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday there are no bells rung.
- A simple Seder (Passover) meal (with whatever components you can come up with in quarantine!) with the father of the home doing the washing of the feet as at the Last Super. You could consider reading Matt 26:23 and John 13:34 during the meal. If you’re not familiar with a Seder meal, here are some resources:
- The end of the Maundy Thursday service at church is typically when the men and servers “lay the altar bare.” They remove everything from the sanctuary while the rest of the parish read aloud Psalms 22 & 143 (BCP pages 366 & 518) omitting the "Glory Be...." This stark yet beautiful liturgical action will be greatly missed, but it might still be helpful to read those Psalms as a family out loud.
- Thursday evening begins the Holy Hour Vigil! While this is typically done at the parish in front of the consecrated host, one may still hold the Vigil at home, perhaps in front of a crucifix or icons (still covered) or candles to help focus your prayers. You may download the liturgy of the Holy Hour here.
- In addition to the Daily Office, the family should also recite The Litany found in the BCP or you may download a copy here.
- Good Friday is a day of strict fasting.
- Light no candles and take steps to make your home feel bare.
- During the 12-3 o’clock hour (the hours of Christ's agony on the cross), pray the stations of the cross as a family. You can find many printable stations on Etsy. A couple of Stations of the Cross liturgies may be found here and here.
- Look for short sermons by Anglican clergy on Christ's Seven Last Words at the Earth & Altar blog this week, too.
- A good day for egg decorating and prep for Easter day feasting!
- Curbside-pick up flowers to decorate your home with.
-The Easter Vigil typically starts outside of the church around a fire, marking the beginning of the new light which has come into the world. Your family may want to have a bonfire Saturday night to commemorate this holy night.
- Ring the bells you've got and sing Alleluia!
Fr. Sean McDermott is Curate at All Saints Anglican in Charlottesville, VA and Editor in Chief at Earth & Altar.