This will certainly be a Holy Week that we remember for the rest of our lives. There is a lot of pain and sorrow in the fact that we will not be able to receive the Eucharist or gather as the Body of Christ in His house on Easter Sunday. I get it. I feel that, too. We are social beings, part of a universal Church that is intensely focused on the betterment of other people! I want to talk a little bit about what Holy Week really is, at its core, and how this one can be just as powerful (if not more so) than the traditional weeks we yearn for.
What do you usually do during Holy Week? A lot of families have traditions, things that they do together to commemorate Christ's passion and celebrate His resurrection. My family is no different! On Good Friday, we attend the Living Stations of the Cross at my home parish in Middletown. There's usually a light soup potluck afterwards, which is a big communal event for the parish. On Easter Sunday, we gather with family and do an Easter egg hunt in the backyard. I'd say about 50% of the time, we take the photos for our Christmas card when we're all dressed up for Easter!
None of that will happen this year. Sure, we will dress up to watch the livestreamed Easter mass, but there will be no Living Stations or family visits on Sunday. BUT (and this is a big but) Holy Week is not made or broken by traditions. Holy Week, at its most basic level, is about proclaiming and professing the Passion of the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing will ever change that; not coronavirus, not war, not famine, NOTHING!
I don't think anyone would deny that we are suffering right now. That's pretty obvious. My question is this: is that worse for Holy Week? I would argue that, in a way, it's better. I've been watching a weekly broadcast called ProjectYM Live every Sunday night with the NGD youth group. This week they had Fr. Mike Schmitz on to speak about the Passion of Jesus. If you don't know Fr. Mike, you've gotta check him out on Youtube! He's a Catholic rock star.
Fr. Mike spoke about the Lord's Passion, but in a different way than we're used to. He spoke about the Shroud of Turin and the actual, physical wounds that Jesus received during His Passion. We hear the story so often, it can become sanitized for us. But the Passion was not sanitized, soft, or painless. It was horrible, painful, messy, and gruesome. Jesus was brutally and repeatedly hurt by a number of people.
Another tradition I have is watching the Passion of the Christ film on Good Friday at 3:00, the day and time we associate with Jesus' crucifixion and death. It really affects me, and I'll sometimes find myself crying when I see Jesus being whipped, scorned, and crucified. That's an emotion that is central to Holy Week: sorrow. We should absolutely feel sorrow. Our brother, friend, savior, and Lord suffered tremendously, and we should mourn that pain the same way we would for our best friend here on earth.
That should resonate right now. We are all feeling sorrow, in one way or another. We cannot gather to commemorate the Lord's Last Supper, or be present for Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, or even to physically commemorate His resurrection at mass at the Easter Vigil or on Sunday. But that sorrow is inherently tied to Holy Week. Yes, Jesus rose, and we will be joyful and praise Him when the time comes. But maybe now is the time to unite our sorrow and suffering with that of He who gave His life for us.
I'm sure we've all been told to "offer it up" at one time or another. There is no greater time to offer up our suffering than right now, and perhaps no greater suffering that we can offer than being separated from the Eucharist. And yes, it hurts to not be able to celebrate together on Easter Sunday. But here's the thing: Easter is not a day. Easter is a season.
Easter is not just Sunday, April 12th. Easter is a liturgical season that lasts for 55 days! That's right, folks, Easter is even longer than Lent itself. That means it will STILL be Easter all the way until May 31st. Now, I don't know if this quarantine will be lifted by then. I don't think anyone does; we have to have faith that God will restore the world to some sense of normalcy in His time, not ours. But whether we are able to be together by May 31st or not, Easter is not just this one day. It is a season of rejoicing and praise for the King of the Universe.
Even if we can't gather together, we can still praise Him. Let's unite our Holy Week suffering with His, and then let's make our lives a living testament to His love and mercy during the Easter season. And yes, it will be difficult. But Jesus never said following Him would be easy! In fact, He promised just the opposite. Yes, this Easter will absolutely be different. But let's embrace it.
Make sacrifices for those you're living with. Pray a Divine Mercy Chaplet. Send a gift to a lonely friend. Call your grandmother. Start a prayer intention board. Do anything and everything you can to bring the resurrected Christ into your home and life during this time. He will notice, even if nobody else does. You will never regret calling on Him, and He will never let you down.
I wish you all a safe, blessed, and transformative Holy Week. May God bless you all!