Last year we uprooted our whole life during Lent. We spent Holy Week traveling across the country to follow a calling to work in urban education. It was all I could do to dig suitable attire out of moving boxes for everyone on Easter morning. We certainly did readings throughout the week, but we were directing moving men on Maundy Thursday. We didn’t manage to make a Good Friday service.
Our boys are getting older (the youngest is three), but even now the idea of evening services every night is too much for our bedtime routine to bear. This was even more pronounced when they were all younger. So we do a combination of services at church and home. And, sometimes one parent will take the older boys to a service while the smallest are put to bed.
This year, Holy Week coincides with our spring break. We all desperately need a restful and fun-filled week, as it has been a really intense school year for all of us. While we will attend services and talk about the story, we won’t be fasting to the extent that might be ideal under other circumstances.
Despite how different each year may look, we do have consistent practices every year. First, as we walk through Holy Week, we remember we are walking through the story together. Second, to live the story well, we find it very helpful to put off certain ‘Easter’ things until on or after the day of Easter. And third, we prepare for the celebration of Resurrection Day and hold hope. We remember that the end of this story is the most glorious Alleluia, which is well worth the wait of Lent.
To help us walk through the story, I assign parts of the story to each day. We talk about the triumphant entry on Palm Sunday, the money changers on Monday, Jesus’ teaching on Tuesday, the woman washing Jesus’ feet on Wednesday, the Last Supper on Thursday, and the Mount of Olives through the crucifixion on Friday and Saturday. We end with the resurrection on Sunday, or Saturday night if there is a vigil at church.
The All About Jesus Bible (which is no longer in print, but can be found used on Amazon) and Brian Wildsmith’s The Easter Story are favorite books we use each year to help us walk through these stories. We just received a copy of Madeline L’Engle’s The Glorious Impossible and I’m so excited to engage with both her wonderful writing and Giotto’s Frescos this year as well.
One of my favorite parts of encountering the story each year is to think about Passover as it connects to the Last Supper. We try to celebrate a full Seder meal with friends before the Maundy Thursday service at church. In years when a full Seder isn’t possible, we share books and try a couple ceremonial foods (matzo, boiled egg, parsley dipped in salt water). I love holding the connections of Moses and the Passover close as I think about the last supper and Christ’s journey to the cross.
It is really hard to put off egg hunts and Easter candy when your community is jumping into Easter early, but I have found it to be an important part of walking through Holy Week as a family. We want to remember we are still in Lent, the time of getting ready. There will be six more weeks to celebrate Easter but we need to wait for the Alleluia.
Part of this waiting is joyful expectation. Even though we are sharing stories about Jesus’ death, Peter’s betrayal and thinking about the general fallenness of the human condition, we do know it doesn’t end this way. We aren’t dwelling in the Alleluia, but we are preparing for it. We are decorating eggs and making decorations that will be hung on Saturday to remain up through the Easter season.
Hope is the word I’m clinging to during this Lent. It is a particularly important word to hold as we share the story of Jesus’ death with children. It has been good to invite my children from a very young age into the story of Holy Week, but I’m always making sure they know the story doesn’t end with Jesus’ death. We need to know what we are getting ready for; we need to remember the Alleluia even if we aren’t saying it out loud yet.
I have no doubt that our Holy Week will continue to change as my four little men grow, as we adapt to a new community and build new traditions. I am grateful that each year we live out the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection in some way that hopefully meets us each where we are, remembering that this is the story that all the other stories in our lives are built on. This story of Holy Week is the Alleluia of all creation!
How does your family observe Holy Week?